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Full text of "American sketches"

American Sketches 



American Sketches 



BY 



CHARLES WHIBLEY 



William Blackwood & Sons 

Edinburgh and London 

1908 



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



ALUREDO 

BARONI NORTHCLIFFE 
PER MARE PER TERRAS 
COMITI JUCUNDISSIMO. 



250358 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

NEW YORK 1 

BOSTON . . 32 

CHICAGO ....... 61 

NEW ENGLAND " 90 

THE YELLOW PRESS 117 

LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM . " . . .144 

THE MILLIONAIRE 172 

THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE . . . 206 

AMERICAN LITERATURE .... 236 

THE UNDERWORLD . . . . . 266 

EPILOGUE ...... 295 



AMEKICAN SKETCHES. 



NEW YOEK. 

To land at Hoboken in a quiet drizzle 
is to sound the depths of desolation. 
A raw, half - finished, unkempt street 
confronts you. Along the roadway, 
roughly broken into ruts, crawls a sad 
tram. The dishevelled shops bear odd 
foreign-looking names upon their fronts, 
and the dark men who lounge at their 
doors suggest neither the spirit of hust 
ling nor the grandeur of democracy. It 
is, in truth, not a street, but the awk 
ward sketch of a street, in which all 
the colours are blurred and the lines 
A 



2 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

drawn awry. And the sense of desola 
tion is heightened by the memory of 
the immediate past. You have not yet 
forgotten the pomp of a great steam 
ship. The gracious harbour of New 
York is still shining in your mind s 
eye. If the sentiment of freedom be 
dear to you, you are fresh from apostro 
phising the statue of Liberty, and 
you may have just whispered to your 
self that you are breathing a clearer, 
larger air. Even the exquisite courtesy 
of the officer who has invited you in 
the blandest terms to declare that you 
have no contraband, has belied the 
voice of rumour and imparted a glow 
of satisfaction. And then you are 
thrown miserably into the leaden de 
spair of Hoboken, and the vision of 
Liberty herself is effaced. 

But Hoboken is an easy place where- 
from to escape, and the traveller may 



NEW YORK 3 

pass through it the more cheerfully, 
because it prepares him for the mani 
fold and bewildering contrasts of New 
York. The towns of the old world 
have alternations of penury and afflu 
ence. In them also picturesque squalor 
obtrudes itself upon an ugly splendour. 
But New York, above all other cities, 
is the city of contrasts. As America is 
less a country than a collection of 
countries, so New York is not a city 
it is a collection of cities. Here, on 
the narrow rock which sustains the real 
metropolis of the United States, is room 
or men and women of every faith and 
every race. The advertisements which 
glitter in the windows or are plastered 
upon the hoardings suggest that all 
nationalities meet with an equal and a 
flattering acceptance. The German re 
grets his fatherland the less when he 
finds a brilliant Bier-Halle waiting for 



4 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

his delight. The Scot no doubt finds the 
" domestic " cigar sweeter to his taste if 
a portrait of Robert Burns adorns the box 
from which he takes it. The Jew may 
be supposed to lose the sense of home 
sickness when he can read the news of 
every day in his familiar Yiddish. And 
it is not only in the contrast of nation 
alities that New York proves its variety. 
Though Germans, Italians, and Irish 
inhabit their own separate quarters and 
frequent their own separate haunts, 
there are many other lines of division. 
Nowhere in the world are there sharper, 
crueller distinctions of riches and 
poverty, of intelligence and boorish- 
ness, of beauty and ugliness. How, in 
deed, shall you find a formula for a city 
which contains within its larger bound 
aries Fifth Avenue and the Bowery, 
the Riverside Drive and Brooklyn, Cen 
tral Park and Coney Island? 



NEW YORK 5 

And this contrast of race and character 
is matched by the diversity of the city s 
aspect. Its architecture is as various as 
its inhabitants. In spite of demolition 
and utility, the history of New York is 
written brokenly upon its walls. Here 
and there you may detect an ancient 
frame-house which has escaped the 
shocks of time and chance, and still 
holds its own against its sturdier neigh 
bours. Nor is the memory of England 
wholly obliterated. Is there not a 
homely sound in Maiden Lane, a modest 
thoroughfare not far from Wall Street? 
What Englishman can feel wholly abroad 
if he walk out to the Battery, or gaze 
upon the austere houses of Washington 
Square ? And do not the two churches 
of Broadway recall the city of London, 
where the masterpieces of Wren are still 
hedged about by overshadowing office 
and frowning warehouse ? St Paul s 



6 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Chapel, indeed, is English both in style 
and origin. It might have been built 
in accord with Sir Christopher s own 
design; and, flanked by the thirty-two 
storeys of the Park Eow Building, it 
has the look of a small and dainty toy. 
Though Trinity Church, dedicated to the 
glory of God and the Astors, stands in 
an equally strange environment, it is 
less incongruous, as it is less elegant, 
than St Paul s. Its spire falls not more 
than a hundred feet below the surround 
ing sky-scrapers, and were it not for its 

; 

graveyard it might escape notice. Now 
its graveyard is one of the wonders 
of America. Eich in memories of 
colonial days, it is as lucid a piece of 
history as survives within the boundaries 
of New York. The busy mob of cosmo 
politans, intent upon trusts and mono-i 
polies, which passes its time-worn stones 
day after day, may find no meaning in t 



NEW YORK 7 

its tranquillity. The wayfarer who is 
careless of the hours will obey the 
ancient counsel and stay a while. The 
inscriptions carry him back to the days 
before the Kevolution, or even into the 
seventeenth century. Here lies one 
Richard Churcher, who died in 1681, at 
the tender age of five. And there is buried 
William Bradford, who printed the first 
newspaper that ever New York saw, the 
forefather in a long line of the Yellowest 
Press on earth. And there is inscribed 
the name of John Watts, the last Royal 
Recorder of New York. Thus the way 
farer may step from Broadway into the 
graveyard of a British colony, and for 
get, in contemplating the familiar ex 
amples of a lapidary style, that there 
was a tea-party at Boston. 

These contrasts are wayward and acci 
dental. The hand of chance has been 
merciful, that is all ; and if you would 



8 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

fully understand New York s self-con 
scious love of incongruity it is else 
where that you must look. Walk along 
the Kiverside Drive, framed by nature 
to be, what an enthusiast has called it, 
" the finest residential avenue in the 
world." Turn your back to the houses, 
and contemplate the noble beauty of the 
Hudson Kiver. Look from the terrace 
of Claremont upon the sunlit scene, and 
ask yourself whether Paris herself offers 
a gayer prospect. And then face the 
" high-class residences," and humble your 
heart. Nowhere else will you get a 
clearer vision of the inappropriateness 
which is the most devoutly worshipped 
of New York s idols. The human mind 
cannot imagine anything less like "resi 
dences" than these vast blocks of vul- - 
garity. The styles of all ages and all 
countries have been recklessly imitated. 
The homes of the millionaires are dis- 



NEW YORK 9 

guised as churches, as mosques, as med 
ieval castles. Here you may find a 
stronghold of feudalism cheek by jowl 
with the quiet mansion of a colonial 
gentleman. There Touraine jostles Con 
stantinople ; and the climax is reached 
by Mr Schwab, who has decreed for 
himself a lofty pleasure-dome, which is 
said to resemble Chambord, and which 
takes its place in a long line of villas, 
without so much as a turnip -field to 
give it an air of seclusion or security. 
In this vainglorious craving for dis 
comfort there is a kind of naivete which 
is not without its pathos. One proud 
lady, whose husband, in the words of 
a dithyrambic guide - book, " made a 
fortune from a patent glove - hook," 
boasts that her mansion has a glass- 
room on the second floor. Another 
vain householder deems it sufficient to 
proclaim that he spent two million 



10 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

dollars upon the villa which shelters 
him from the storm. In brief, there is 
scarcely a single palace on the Riverside 
which may not be described as an antic 
of wealth, and one wonders what sort 
of a life is lived within these gloomy 
walls. Do the inhabitants dress their 
parts with conscientious gravity, and sit 
down to dine with the trappings of t 
costume and furniture which belong to 
their houses? Suppose they did, and. 
suppose in obedience to a signal they pre 
cipitated themselves upon the highway, 
there would be such a masquerade of 
fancy dress as the world has never seen. 
The Riverside Drive, then, is a sermon 
in stones, whose text is the uselessness of 
uncultured dollars. If we judged New 
York by this orgie of tasteless extrav 
agance, we might condemn it for a par 
venu among cities, careless of millions 
and sparing of discretion. We may not 



NEW YORK 11 

thus judge it. New York, if it be a par 
venu, is often a parvenu of taste, and has 
given many a proof of intelligence and 
refinement. The home of great luxury, 
it does not always, as on the Eiverside, 
mistake display for beauty. There are 
houses in the neighbourhood of Fifth 
Avenue which are perfect in reticence 
and suitability. The clubs of New York 
are a splendid example even to London, 
the first home of clubs. In Central Park 
the people of New York possesses a place 
of amenity and recreation which Europe 
cannot surpass; and when you are tired 
of watching the antics of the leisurely 
chipmunk, who gambols without haste 
and without fear, you may delight in a 
collection of pictures which wealth and 
good management will make the despair 
and admiration of the world. Much, of 
course, remains to do, and therein New 
York is fortunate. Her growing interest 



12 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

in sculpture and architecture is matched 
by a magnificent opportunity. In the 
Old World all has been accomplished. 
Our buildings are set up, our memorials 
dedicated, our pictures gathered into 
galleries. America starts, so to say, 
from scratch ; there is no limit to her 
ambition ; and she has infinite money. 
If the past is ours, the future is hers, 
and we may look forward to it with 
curiosity and with hope. 

The architects of America have not 
only composed works in accordance with 
the old traditions and in obedience to 
ancient models; they have devised a 
new style and a new method of their 
own. To pack a vast metropolis within 
a narrow space, they have made moun 
tains of houses. When the rock upon 
which their city stands proved insuffi 
cient for their ambition, they conquered 
another kingdom in the air. The sky- 



NEW YORK 13 

scrapers which lift their lofty turrets to 
the heaven are the pride of New York. 
It is upon them that the returning 
traveller gazes most eagerly, as he nears 
the shore. They hold a firmer place in 
his heart than even the Statue of 
Liberty, and the vague sentiment which 
it inspires. With a proper vanity he 
points out to the poor Briton, who 
shudders at five storeys, the size and 
grandeur of his imposing palaces. And 
his arrogance is just. The sky-scraper 
presents a new view of architecture. 
It is original, characteristic, and beauti 
ful. Suggested and enforced, as I have 
said, by the narrowness of the rock, it 
is suitable to its atmosphere and en 
vironment. New York is a southern, 
sunlit city, which needs protection from 
the heat and need not fear obscurity. 
Even where the buildings are highest, 
the wayfarer does not feel that he is 



14 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

walking at the bottom of a well. But, 
let it be said at once, the sky-scraper 
would be intolerable in our grey and 
murky land. London demands a broad 
thoroughfare and low houses. These 
are its only defence against a covered 
sky and an enveloping fog, and the 
patriotic Americans who would trans-^ 
plant their sky-scrapers to England 
merely prove that they do not appreci 
ate the logic and beauty of their own 
design. 

What, then, is a sky-scraper? It is 
a giant bird-cage, whose interstices are 
filled with stone or concrete. Though 
its structure is concealed from the eye, 
it is impossible not to wonder at its 
superb effrontery. It depends for its 
effect, not upon ornament, which per 
force appears trivial and inapposite, but 
upon its mass. Whatever approaches 
it of another scale and kind is dwarfed 



NEW YORK 15 

to insignificance. The Sub-Treasury of 
the United States, for instance, looks 
like a foolish plaything beside its 
august neighbours. Where sky-scrapers 
are there must be no commemorative 
statues, no monuments raised to merely 
human heroes. The effigy of Washing 
ton in Wall Street has no more dignity 
than a tin soldier. And as the sky 
scraper makes houses of a common size 
ridiculous, so it loses its splendour when 
it stands alone. Nothing can surpass 
in ugliness the twenty storeys of thin 
horror that is called the Flat-iron; and 
it is ugly because it is isolated in 
Madison Square, a place of reasonable 
dimensions. It is continuity which 
imparts a dignity to these mammoths. 
The vast masses which frown upon Wall 
Street and Broadway are austere, like 
the Pyramids. They seem the works 
of giants, not of men. They might be 



16 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

a vast phenomenon of nature, which 
was before the flood, and which has sur 
vived the shocks of earthquake and the 
passage of the years. And when their 
summits are lit by the declining sun, 
when their white walls look like marble 
in the glow of the reddening sky, they 
present such a spectacle as many a 
strenuous American crosses the ocean 
to see in Switzerland, and crosses it 
in vain. 

New York, in truth, is a city of many 
beauties, and with a reckless prodigality 
she has done her best to obscure them 
all. Driven by a vain love of swift 
traffic, she assails your ear with an 
incessant din and your eye with the 
unsightliest railroad that human ingen 
uity has ever contrived. She has sacri 
ficed the amenity of her streets and 
the dignity of her buildings to the 
false god of Speed. Why men worship 



NEW YORK 17 

Speed, a demon who lies in wait to 
destroy them, it is impossible to under 
stand. It would be as wise and as 
profitable to worship Sloth. However, 
the men of New York, as they tell you 
with an insistent and ingenuous pride, 
are "hustlers." They must ever be 
moving, and moving fast. The " hust 
ling," probably, leads to little enough. 
Haste and industry are not synonymous. 
To run up and down is but a form of 
busy idleness. The captains of industry 
who do the work of the world sit still, 
surrounded by bells and telephones. 
Such heroes as J. Pierpont Morgan and 
John D. Eockefeller are never surprised 
on train or trolley. They show them 
selves furtively behind vast expanses 
of plate-glass, and move only to eat or 
sleep. It is the common citizen of 
New York who is never quiet. He 
finds it irksome to stay long in the 
B 



18 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

same place. Though his house may be 
comfortable, even luxurious, he is in a 
fever to leave it. And so it comes 
about that what he is wont to call 
" transportation " seems the most im 
portant thing in his life. We give the 
word another signification. To New York 
it means the many methods of conveying 
passengers from one point to another. 
And the methods, various as they are, 
keep pace with the desires of the rest 
less citizen, who may travel at what 
pace and altitude he desires. He may 
burrow, like a rabbit, beneath the 
ground. If he be more happily normal 
in his tastes he may ride in a surface 
car. Or he may fly, like a bird through 
the air, on an overhead railway. The 
constant rattle of cars and railways is 
indescribable. The overhead lines pass 
close to the first-floor windows, bring 
ing darkness and noise wherever they 



NEW YORK 19 

are laid. There are offices in which a 
stranger can neither hear nor be heard, 
and yet you are told that to the accus 
tomed ear of the native all is silent 
and reposeful. And I can easily be 
lieve that a sudden cessation of din 
would bring an instant madness. Nor 
must another and an indirect result of 
the trains and trams which encircle 
New York be forgotten. The roads are 
so seldom used that they are permitted 
to fall into a ruinous decay. Their sur 
face is broken into ruts and yawns in 
chasms. To drive " down-town" in a 
carriage is to suffer a sensation akin to 
sea-sickness ; and having once suffered, 
you can understand that it is some 
thing else than the democratic love of 
travelling in common that persuades 
the people of New York to clamber on 
the overhead railway, or to take its 
chance in a tram-car. 



20 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Movement, then, noisy and incessant, 
is the passion of New York. Perhaps 
it is the brisk air which drives men to 
this useless activity. Perhaps it is no 
better than an ingrained and supersti 
tious habit. But the drowsiest foreigner 
is soon caught up in the whirl. He 
needs neither rest nor sleep. He, too, 
must be chasing something which always 
eludes him. He, too, finds himself 
leaving a quiet corner where he would 
like to stay, that he may reach some 
place which he has no desire to see. 
Even though he mount to the tenth 
or the twentieth story, the throb of 
the restless city reaches him. Wall 
Street is "hustling" made concrete. 
The Bowery is crowded with a cosmo 
politan horde which is never still. 
Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Ferry 
might be the cross-roads of the world. 
There a vast mob is passing hither and 



NEW YORK 21 

thither, on foot, on boats, on railroads. 
What are they doing, whither are they 
going, these scurrying men and women ? 
Have they no business to pursue, no 
office-stool to sit upon, no typewriting 
machines to jostle ? And when you 
are weary of transportation, go into the 
hall of a big hotel and you will find 
the same ceaseless motion. On all sides 
you will hear the click, click of tele 
phone and telegram. On all sides you 
will see eager citizens scanning the tape, 
which brings them messages of ruin or 
success. Nowhere, save in a secluded 
bar or a stately club, will you find a 
single man content to be alive and to 
squander the leisure that God has given 
him. 

And with all her undying haste 
New York is not content. She must 
still find other means of saving time. 
And to save time she has strained all 



22 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

the resources of civilisation. In that 
rather dismal thing called " material 
progress" she is easily ahead of the 
world. Never was the apparatus of 
life so skilfully turned and handled as 
in New York. There are no two fixed 
points which are not easily connected 
by iron lines. There seems no reason 
why a citizen of New York should ever 
walk. If stairs exist, he need not use 
them, for an express lift, warranted not 
to stop before the fifteenth floor, will 
carry him in a few seconds to the top 
of the highest building. If he open a 
cupboard door, the mere opening of it 
lights an electric lamp, and he need 
not grope after a coat by the dim light 
of a guttering candle. At his bed-head 
stands a telephone, and, if he will, he 
may speak to a friend a thousand miles 
away without moving from his pillow. 
But time is saved of that there is no 



NEW YORK 23 

doubt. The only doubt is, whether it 
be worth saving. When New York has 
saved her time, what does she do with 
it? She merely squanders it in riotous 
movement and reckless " transportation." 
Thus she lives in a vicious circle saving 
time that she may spend it, and spend 
ing it that again she may save it. Nor 
can this material progress be achieved 
without a loss of what the Old World 
prizes most highly. To win all the 
benefits which civilisation affords, you 
must lose peace and you must sacrifice 
privacy. The many appliances which 
save our useless time may be enjoyed 
only by crowds. The citizens of New 
York travel, live, and talk in public. 
They have made their choice, and are 
proud of it. Englishmen are still reck 
less enough to waste their time in 
pursuit of individualism, and I think 
they are wise. For my part, I would 



24 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

rather lose my time than save it, and 
the one open conveyance of New York 
which in pace and conduct suits my 
inclination is the Fifth Avenue Stage. 

But New York is unique. It baffles 
the understanding and defies observa 
tion. In vain you search for a standard 
of comparison. France and England 
set out many centuries ago from the 
same point and with the same intention. 
America has nothing in common, either 
of purpose or method, with either of 
these countries. To a European it is 
the most foreign city on earth. Untidy 
but flamboyant, it is reckless of the 
laws by which life is lived elsewhere. 
It builds beautiful houses, it delights 
in white marble palaces, and it thinks 
it superfluous to level its roads. Eager . 
for success, worshipping astuteness as 
devoutly as it worships speed, it is yet 
indifferent to the failure of others, and 



NEW YORK 25 

seems to hold human life in light 
esteem. In brief, it is a braggart 
city of medieval courage and medieval 
cruelty, combining the fierceness of an 
Italian republic with a perfect faith in 
mechanical contrivance and an ardent 
love of material progress. 

Here, then, are all the elements of 
interest and curiosity. Happy are the 
citizens who watch from day to day 
the fight that never before has been 
fought on the same terms. And yet 
more strangely baffling than the city 
are the citizens. Who are they, and 
of what blood and character? What, 
indeed, is a New Yorker ? Is he Jew 
or Irish ? Is he English or German ? 
Is he Russian or Polish? He may 
be something of all these, and yet he 
is wholly none of them. Something 
has been added to him which he had 
not before. He is endowed with a 



26 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

briskness and an invention often alien 
to his blood. He is quicker in his 
movement, less trammelled in his judg 
ment. Though he may lose wisdom 
in sharpening his wit, the change he 
undergoes is unmistakable. New York, 
indeed, resembles a magic cauldron. 
Those who are cast into it are born 
again. For a generation some vague 
trace of accent or habit may remain. 
The old characteristics must needs hang 
about the newly - arrived immigrant. 
But in a generation these characteristics 
are softened or disappear, and there 
is produced a type which seems remote 
from all its origins. As yet the process 
of amalgamation is incomplete, and it 
is impossible to say in what this 
bubble -shubble of mixed races will re 
sult. Nor have we any clue of his 
torical experience which we may follow. 
The Roman Empire included within its 



NEW YORK 27 

borders many lands and unnumbered 
nationalities, but the dominant race 
kept its blood pure. In New York 
and the other great cities of America 
the soil is the sole common factor. 
Though all the citizens of the great 
republic live upon that soil, they 
differ in blood and origin as much as 
the East of Europe differs from the 
West. And it is a mystery yet un- 
pierced that, as the generations pass, 
they approach nearer and nearer to 
uniformity, both in type and character. 
And by what traits do we recognise 
the citizen of New York? Of course 
there is no question here of the culti 
vated gentleman, who is familiar in 
Paris and London, and whose hospitality 
in his own land is an amiable reproach 
to our own too frequent thoughtlessness, 
but of the simpler class which confronts 
the traveller in street and train, in 



28 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

hotel and restaurant. The railway guard, 
the waiter, the cab -driver these are 
the men upon whose care the comfort 
of the stranger depends in every land, 
and whose tact and temper are no 
bad index of the national character. In 
New York, then, you are met every 
where by a sort of urbane familiarity. 
The man who does you a service, for 
which you pay him, is neither civil 
nor uncivil. He contrives, in a way 
which is by no means unpleasant, to 
put himself on an equality with you. 
With a mild surprise you find your 
self taking for granted what in your 
own land you would resent bitterly. 
Not even the curiosity of the nigger, 
who brushes your coat with a whisk, 
appears irksome. For the habit of 
years has enabled white man and black 
to assume a light and easy manner, 
which in an Englishman, born and 



NEW YORK 29 

trained to another tradition, would 
appear impertinence. 

And familiarity is not the only trait 
which separates the plain man of New 
York from the plain man of London. 
The New Yorker looks upon the 
foreigner with the eye of patronage. 
To his superior intelligence the wander 
ing stranger is a kind of natural, who 
should not be allowed to roam alone 
and at large. Before you have been 
long in the land you find yourself 
shepherded, and driven with an affa 
bility, not unmixed with contempt, into 
the right path. Again, you do not 
resent it, and yet are surprised at your 
own forbearance. A little thought, how 
ever, explains the assumed superiority. 
The citizen of New York has an in 
genuous pride and pleasure in his own 
city and in his own prowess, which 
nothing can daunt. He is convinced, 



30 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

especially if he lias never travelled 
beyond his own borders, that he en 
grosses the virtue and intelligence of 
the world. The driver of a motor-car 
assured me, with a quiet certitude which 
brooked no contradiction, that England 
was cut up into sporting estates for 
the "lords," and that there the work 
ing man was doomed to an idle serv 
ility. "But," said he, "there is no 
room for bums here." This absolute 
disbelief in other countries, combined 
with a perfect confidence in their own, 
has persuaded the citizens of New York 
to look down with a cold and pitiful 
eye upon those who are so unfortunate 
as to be born under an effete monarchy. 
There is no bluster in their attitude, no 
insistence. The conviction of superiority 
is far too great for that. They belong 
to the greatest country upon earth ; 
they alone enjoy the true blessings of 



NEW YORK 31 

freedom ; they alone understand the 
dignity of labour and the spirit of in 
dependence ; and they have made up 
their minds kindly but firmly that you 
shall not forget it. 

Thus you carry away from New York 
a memory of a lively air, gigantic build 
ings, incessant movement, sporadic ele 
gance, and ingenuous patronage. And 
when you have separated your im 
pressions, the most vivid and constant 
impression that remains is of a city 
where the means of life conquer life 
itself, whose citizens die hourly of the 
rage to live. 



BOSTON. 

AMERICA, the country of contrasts, can 
show none more sudden or striking 
than that between New York and 
Boston. In New York progress and 
convenience reach their zenith. A 
short journey carries you back into 
the England of the eighteenth century. 
The traveller, lately puzzled by over 
head railways and awed by the im 
mensity of sky - scrapers, no sooner 
reaches Boston than he finds himself 
once more in a familiar environment. 
The wayward simplicity of the city 
has little in common with the New 
World. Its streets are not mere hollow 



BOSTON 33 

tubes, through which financiers may be 
hastily precipitated to their quest for 
gold. They wind and twist like the 
streets in the country towns of Eng 
land and France. To the old architects 
of Boston, indeed, a street was some 
thing more than a thoroughfare. The 
houses which flanked it took their 
places by whim or hazard, and were 
not compelled to follow a hard im 
movable line. And so they possess all 
the beauty which is born of accident 
and surprise. You turn a corner, and 
know not what will confront you ; you 
dive down a side street, and are 
uncertain into what century you will 
be thrust. Here is the old wooden 
house, which recalls the first settlers ; 
there the fair red -brick of a later 
period. And everywhere is the divers 
ity which comes of growth, and which 
proves that time is a better con- 
c 



34 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

triver of effects than the most skilful 
architect. 

The constant mark of Boston is a de 
mure gaiety. An air of quiet festivity 
encompasses the streets. The houses 
are elegant, but sternly ordered. If 
they belong to the colonial style, they 
are exquisitely symmetrical. There is 
no pilaster without its fellow ; no 
window that is not nicely balanced by 
another of self -same shape and size. 
The architects, who learned their craft 
from the designs of Inigo Jones and 
Christopher Wren, had no ambition to 
express their own fancy. They were 
loyally obedient to the tradition of 
the masters, and the houses which they 
planned, plain in their neatness, are 
neither pretentious nor inappropriate. 
Nowhere in Boston will you find the 
extravagant ingenuity which makes New 
York ridiculous ; nowhere will you be 



BOSTON 35 

disturbed by an absurd mimicry of 
exotic styles ; nowhere are you asked 
to wonder at mountainous blocks of 
stone. Boston is not a city of giants, 
but of men who love their comfort, 
and who, in spite of Puritan ancestry, 
do not disdain to live in beautiful 
surroundings. In other words, the 
millionaire has not laid his iron hand 
upon New England, and, until he 
come, Boston may still boast of its 
elegance. 

The pride of Boston is Beacon Street, 
surely one among the most majestic 
streets in the world. It recalls Picca 
dilly and the frontage of the Green 
Park. Its broad spaces and the shade 
of its dividing trees are of the natural 
beauty which time alone can confer, 
and its houses are worthy its setting. 
I lunched at the Somerset Club, in a 
white - panelled room, and it needed 



36 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

clams and soft -shell crabs to convince 
me that I was in a new land, and 
not in an EDglish country-house. All 
was of another time and of a familiar 
place the service, the furniture, the 
aspect. And was it possible to regard 
our sympathetic hosts as strange in 
blood or speech ? 

The Mall, in Beacon Street, if it is 
the pride, is also the distinguishing 
mark of Boston. For Boston is a city of 
parks and trees. The famous Common, 
as those might remember who believe 
that America sprang into being in a 
night, has been sacred for nearly three 
hundred years. Since 1640 it has been 
the centre of Boston. It has witnessed 
the tragedies and comedies of an event 
ful history. "There," wrote an Eng 
lish traveller as early as 1675, "the 
gallants walk with their marmalet- 
madams, as we do in Moorfields." 



BOSTON 37 

There malefactors were hanged ; there 
the witches suffered in the time of 
their persecution ; and it is impos 
sible to forget, as you walk its ample 
spaces, the many old associations which 
it brings with it from the past. 

For it is to the past that Boston 
belongs. No city is more keenly con 
scious of its origin. The flood of 
foreign immigration has not engulfed 
it. Its memories, like its names, are 
still of England, New and Old. The 
spirit of America, eagerly looking 
forward, cruelly acquisitive, does not 
seem to fulfil it. The sentiment of 
its beginning has outlasted even the 
sentiment of a poignant agitation. It 
resembles an old man thinking of 
what was, and turning over with care 
ful hand the relics of days gone by. 
If in one aspect Boston is a centre of 
commerce and enterprise, in another 



38 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

it is a patient worshipper of tradition. 
It regards the few old buildings which 
have survived the shocks of time with a 
respect which an Englishman can easily 
understand, but which may appear ex 
travagant to the modern American. 
The Old South Meeting-House, to give 
a single instance, is an object of simple- 
hearted veneration to the people of 
Boston, and the veneration is easily 
intelligible. For there is scarcely an 
episode in Boston s history that is not 
connected, in the popular imagination, 
with the Old South Meeting-House. It 
stands on the site of John Winthrop s 
garden ; it is rich in memories of Cotton 
and Increase Mather. Within its ancient 
walls was Benjamin Franklin christened, 
and the building which stands to-day 
comes down to us from 1730, and was 
designed in obedient imitation of Eng 
lish masters. There, too, were enacted 



BOSTON 39 

many scenes in the drama of revolu 
tion ; there it was that the famous tea- 
party was proposed ; and thence it was 
that the Mohawks, drunk with the 
rhetoric of liberty, found their way to 
the harbour, that they might see how 
tea mixed with salt-water. If the senti 
ment be sometimes exaggerated, the pur 
pose is admirable, and it is a pleasant 
reflection that, in a country of quick 
changes and historical indifference, at 
least one building will be preserved for 
the admiration of coming generations. 

It is for such reasons as these that 
an Englishman feels at home in Boston. 
He is secure in the same past ; he shares 
the same memories, even though he give 
them a different interpretation. Between 
the New and Old England there are more 
points of similarity than of difference. 
In each are the same green meadows, 
the same ample streams, the same wide 



40 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

vistas. The names of the towns and 
villages in the new country were 
borrowed from the old some centuries 
ago ; everywhere friendly associations 
are evoked ; everywhere are signs of 
a familiar and kindly origin. When 
Winthrop, the earliest of the settlers, 
wrote to his wife, "We are here in a 
paradise," he spoke with an enthusiasm 
which is easily intelligible. And as 
the little colony grew, it lived its life 
in accord with the habit and sentiment 
of the mother-country. In architecture 
and costume it followed the example 
set in Bristol or in London. Between 
these ports and Boston was a frequent 
interchange of news and commodities. 
An American in England was no 
stranger. He was visiting, with sym 
pathy and understanding, the home of 
his fathers. The most distinguished Bos- 
tonians of the late eighteenth century 



BOSTON 41 

live upon the canvases of Copley, who, 
in his son, gave to England a distin 
guished Chancellor, and whose career 
is the best proof of the good relations 
which bound England to her colony. 
Now Copley arrived in England in 1774, 
when his native Boston was aroused to 
the height of her sentimental fury, 
and he was received with acclamation. 
He painted the portraits of Lord North 
and his wife, who, one imagines, were 
not regarded in Boston with especial 
favour. The King and Queen gave 
him sittings, and neither political ani 
mosity nor professional rivalry stood 
in the way of his advancement. His 
temper and character were well adapted 
to his career. Before he left New Eng 
land he had shown himself a Court- 
painter in a democratic city. He loved 
the trappings of life, and he loved 
to put his sitters in a splendid en- 



42 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

vironment. His own magnificence had 
already astonished the grave Boston- 
ians ; he is described, while still a 
youth, as " dressed in a fine maroon 
cloth, with gilt buttons " ; and he set 
the seal of his own taste upon the por 
traiture of his friends. 

I have said that Boston loves relics. 
The relics which it loves best are the 
relics of England s discomfiture. The 
stately portraits of Copley are of small 
account compared to the memorials of 
what was nothing else than a civil war. 
Faneuil Hall, the Covent Garden of 
Boston, presented to the city by Peter 
Faneuil some thirty years before the 
birth of " Liberty," is now but an em 
blem of revolt. The Old South Meet 
ing-Place is endeared to the citizens of 
Boston as " the sanctuary of freedom." 
A vast monument, erected a mere 
quarter of a century ago, commemor- 



BOSTON 43 

ates the " Boston Massacre." And 
wherever you turn you are reminded 
of an episode which might easily be 
forgotten. To an Englishman these his 
torical landmarks are inoffensive. The 
dispute which they recall aroused far 
less emotion on our side the ocean 
than on the other, and long ago we 
saw the events of the Revolution in a 
fair perspective. In truth, this insist 
ence on the past is not wholly credit 
able to Boston s sense of humour. The 
passionate paeans which Otis and his 
friends sang to Liberty were irrelevant. 
Liberty was never for a moment in 
danger, if Liberty, indeed, be a thing 
of fact and not of watchwords. The 
leaders of the Revolution wrote and 
spoke as though it was their duty to 
throw off the yoke of the foreigner, 
a yoke as heavy as that which Catholic 
Spain cast upon Protestant Holland. 



44 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

But there was no yoke to be thrown 
off, because no yoke was ever imposed, 
and Boston might have celebrated 
greater events in her history than 
that which an American statesman has 
wisely called "the glittering and sound 
ing generalities of natural right." 

However, if you would forget the 
follies of politicians, you have but to 
cross the bridge and drive to Cambridge, 
which, like the other Cambridge of 
England, is the seat of a distinguished 
university. You are doubly rewarded, 
for not merely is Cambridge a perfect 
specimen of a colonial village, but in 
Harvard there breathes the true spirit 
of humane letters. Nor is the college 
a creation of yesterday. It is not 
far short of three centuries ago that 
John Harvard, once of Emmanuel Col 
lege in England, endowed the university 
which bears his honoured name. The 



BOSTON 45 

bequest was a poor 780, with 260 
books, but it was sufficient to ensure 
an amiable immortality, and to be 
stow a just cause of pride upon the 
mother-college. The daughter is worthy 
her august parentage. She has pre 
served the sentiment of her birth; she 
still worships the classics with a con 
stant heart ; the fame of her scholars 
has travelled in the mouths of men 
from end to end of Europe. And 
Harvard has preserved all the outward 
tokens of a university. Her wide spaces 
and lofty avenues are the fit abode of 
learning. Her college chapel and her 
college halls could serve no other pur 
pose than that for which they are de 
signed. The West, I believe, has built 
universities on another plan and to 
another purpose. But Harvard, like 
her great neighbour Boston, has been 
obedient to the voice of tradition, and 



46 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

her college, the oldest, remains also the 
greatest in America. 

Culture has always been at once the 
boast and the reproach of Boston. A 
serious ancestry and the neighbourhood 
of a university are enough to ensure a 
grave devotion to the things of the 
spirit, and Boston has never found the 
quest of gold sufficient for its needs. 
The Pilgrim Fathers, who first sought 
a refuge in New England, left their 
country in the cause of what they 
thought intellectual freedom, and their 
descendants have ever stood in need of 
the excitement which nothing save piet 
ism or culture can impart. For many 
years pietism held sway in Boston. 
The persecution of the witches, con 
ducted with a lofty eloquence by Cotton 
Mather, was but the expression of an 
imperious demand, and the conflict of 
warring sects, which for many years 



BOSTON 47 

disturbed the peace of the city, satis 
fied a craving not yet allayed. Then, 
after a long interval, came Transcendent 
alism, a pleasant mixture of literature 
and moral guidance, and to-day Boston 
is as earnest as ever in pursuit of vague 
ideals and soothing doctrines. 

But pietism has gradually yielded to 
the claim of culture. Though one of 
the largest buildings which frown upon 
the wayfarer in Boston is a temple 
raised to the honour of Christian 
Science and Mrs Eddy, literature is 
clearly the most fashionable anodyne. 
It is at once easier and less poignant 
than theology : while it imparts the 
same sense of superiority, it suggests 
the same emancipation from mere world- 
liness. It is by lectures that Boston 
attempts to slake its intellectual thirst 
lectures on everything and nothing. 
Science, literature, theology all is pat 



48 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

to the purpose. The enterprise of 
the Lowell Institute is seconded by a 
thousand private ventures. The patient 
citizens are always ready to discuss 
Shakespeare, except when Tennyson is 
the subject of the last discourse, and 
zoology remains attractive until it be 
obscured by the newest sensation in 
chemistry. And the appetite of Boston 
is unglutted and insatiable. Its folly is 
frankly recognised by the wise among 
its own citizens. Here, for instance, is 
the testimony of one whose sympathy 
with real learning is evident. " The 
lecture system," says he, " in its best 
estate an admirable educational instru 
ment, has been subject to dreadful abuse. 
The unbounded appetite of the New 
England communities for this form of 
intellectual nourishment has tempted 
vast hordes of charlatans and pretend 
ers to try their fortune in this profitable 



BOSTON 49 

field. The hungry sheep look up, and 
are not fed. The pay of the lecturer 
has grown more exorbitant in proportion 
to the dilution of his mixture, until pro 
fessional jokers have usurped the places 
once graced by philosophers and poets ; 
and to-day the lyceums are served by 
a new species of broker, who ekes 
out the failing literary material with 
the better entertainment of music and 
play-acting." 

I am not sure whether the new species 
of broker is not better than the old. 
So long as music and play-acting do not 
masquerade in the worn - out duds of 
intellect, they do not inflict a serious 
injury upon the people. It is culture, 
false and unashamed, that is the danger. 
For culture is the vice of the intelli 
gence. It stands to literature in the 
same relation as hypocrisy stands to 
religion. A glib familiarity with names 



50 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

does duty for knowledge. Men and 
women think it no shame to play the 
parrot to lecturers, and to pretend an 
acquaintance with books whose leaves 
they have never parted. They affect 
intellect, when at its best it is curiosity 
which drives them to lecture hall or 
institute at its worst, a love of mental 
dram-drinking. To see manifest in a 
frock-coat a poet or man of science whose 
name is printed in the newspapers fills 
them with a fearful enthusiasm. To 
hear the commonplaces of literary criti 
cism delivered in a lofty tone of paradox 
persuades them to believe that they 
also are among the erudite, and makes 
the sacrifice of time and money as light 
as a wind-blown leaf. But their indis 
cretion is not so trivial as it seems. 
Though every man and every woman 
has the right to waste his time (or hers) 
as may seem good, something else be- 



BOSTON 51 

sides time is lost in the lecture hall. 
Sincerity also is squandered in the 
grey, dim light of sham learning, and 
nobody can indulge in a mixed orgie 
of "culture" without some sacrifice of 
honesty and truth. 

Culture, of course, is not the mon 
opoly of Boston. It has stretched its 
long arm from end to end of the 
American continent. Wherever you go 
you will hear, in tram or car, the facile 
gossip of literature. The whole world 
seems familiar with great names, though 
the meaning of the names escapes the 
vast majority. Now the earnest ones 
of the earth congregate in vast tea- 
gardens of the intellect, such as Chatau- 
qua. Now the summer hotel is thought 
a fit place in which to pick up a 
smattering of literature or science ; 
and there is an uneasy feeling abroad 
that what is commonly known as 



52 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

pleasure must not be unalloyed. The 
vice, unhappily, is not unknown in 
England. A country which had the 
ingenuity to call a penny reading " uni 
versity extension," and to send its 
missionaries into every town, cannot be 
held guiltless. But our poor attempts 
at culture dwindle to a paltry in 
significance in the light of American 
enterprise ; and we would no more 
compare the achievement of England 
in the diffusion of learning with the 
achievement of the United States, than 
we would set a modest London office 
by the side of the loftiest sky-scraper 
in New York. America lives to do 
good or evil on a large scale, and we 
lag as far behind her in culture as in 
money-making. 

When I left Boston for the West, 
I met in the train an earnest citizen 
of a not uncommon type. He was 



BOSTON 53 

immensely and ingenuously patriotic. 
Though he had never left his native 
land, and had therefore an insufficient 
standard of comparison, he was con 
vinced that America was superior in 
arms and arts to every other part of 
the habitable globe. He assured me, 
with an engaging simplicity, that Ameri 
cans were braver, more energetic, and 
richer than Englishmen ; that, as their 
buildings were higher, so also were their 
intelligence and their aspirations. He 
pointed out that in the vast continent 
of the West nothing was lacking which 
the mind of man could desire. Where, 
he asked, would you find harvests so 
generous, mines so abundant in precious 
metals, factories managed with so splen 
did an ingenuity ? If wine and oil 
are your quest, said he, you have but 
to tap the surface of the munificent 
earth. One thing only, he confessed, 



54 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

was lacking, and that need a few years 
would make good. "Wait," said he, 
with an assured if immodest boastful- 
ness, " wait until we get a bit de 
generate, and then we will produce a 
Shakespeare " ! I had not the heart 
to suggest that the sixteenth century 
in England was a period of birth, not 
of decay. I could only accept his 
statement in awful appreciation. And 
emboldened by my silence, he supported 
his argument with a hundred ingeniously 
chosen facts. He was sure that America 
would never show the smallest sign of 
decadence until she was tired of making 
money. The love of money was the 
best defence against degeneracy of every 
kind, and he gasped with simple-hearted 
pride when he thought of the millions 
of dollars which his healthy, primitive 
compatriots were amassing. But, he 
allowed, the weariness of satiety might 



BOSTON 55 

overtake them ; there might come a 
time when the ledger and counting- 
house ceased to be all - sufficient, and 
that moment of decay would witness 
the triumph of American literature. 
"Ben Jonson, Goldsmith, and those 
fellows," he asked, " lived in a de 
generate age, didn t they ? " I assented 
hastily. How could I contradict so 
agreeable a companion, especially as he 
was going, as fast as the train could 
carry him, to take a rest cure? 

Such is one victim of the passion for 
culture. He had probably read nothing 
in his life save the newspapers and 
Dickens s American Notes, a work to 
which he referred with the bitterest re 
sentment. But he had attended lectures, 
and heard names, some of which re 
mained tinkling in his empty head. 
To his confused mind English literature 
was a period of degeneracy, one and 



56 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

indissoluble, in which certain famous 
writers lived, devoting what time they 
could snatch from the practice of what 
he called the decadent vices to the 
worship of the bottle. There was no 
harm in him. He was, as the common 
phrase has it, his own enemy. But 
he would be better employed in look 
ing at a game of baseball than in 
playing with humane letters, and one 
cannot but regret that he should suffer 
thus profoundly from a vicious system. 
Another victim of culture comes to 
my mind. He, too, was from Boston, 
and as his intelligence was far deeper 
than the other one s, his unhappiness 
was the greater. I talked to him for 
a long day, and he had no conversa 
tion but of books. For him the visible 
world did not exist. The printed page 
was the beginning and the end of 
existence. He had read, if not wisely, 



BOSTON 57 

at least voraciously, and he displayed 
a wide and profound acquaintance with 
modern biography. He had all the 
latest Lives at his finger-tips. He 
knew where all our great contempo 
raries lived, and who were their friends ; 
he had attended lectures on every con 
ceivable subject ; withal he was of a 
high seriousness, which nothing could 
daunt. For him, as is but natural, 
the works of Mr Arthur Benson held 
the last "message" of modern liter 
ature. He could not look upon books 
as mere instruments of pleasure or 
enjoyment. He wanted to extract from 
them that mysterious quality called 
" help " by the elect of the lecture 
hall ; and without the smallest per 
suasion he told me which authors had 
" helped" him in his journey through 
the world. Shelley, of course, stood 
first on the list, then came Walt Whit- 



58 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

man, and Pater was not far from the 
top. And there was nothing more 
strange in this apostle of aesthetics 
than his matter-of-fact air. His words 
were the words of a yearning spirit. 
His tone was the tone of a statistician. 
Had he really read the books of which 
he spoke? Did they really "help" 
him in the making of money, which 
was the purpose of his life, or did 
they minister to a mind diseased ? I 
do not know. But I do know that 
there was a kind of pathos in his cold 
anxiety. Plainly he was a man of 
quick perception and alert intelligence. 
And he seemed to have wasted a vast 
amount of time in acquiring a jargon 
which certainly was not his own, and 
in attaching to books a meaning and pur 
pose which they have never possessed. 

Such are two widely different pro 
ducts of the lecture hall, and it is 



BOSTON 59 

impossible not to see that, widely as 
their temperaments differ, they have 
been pushed through the same mill. 
And thus we arrive at the worst 
vice of enforced culture. Culture is, 
like the overhead railroad, a mere 
saviour of time. It is the tramway 
of knowledge which compels all men 
to travel by the same car, whatever 
may be their ultimate destination. 
It possesses all the inconvenience of 
pleasures taken or duties performed 
in common. The knowledge which is 
sincere and valuable must be acquired 
by each man separately ; it must cor 
respond to the character and disposition 
of him who acquires it, or it is a 
thin disguise of vanity and idleness. 
To what, then, may we attribute this 
passion for the lecture hall ? Perhaps 
it is partly due to the provincialism 
characteristic of America, and partly 



60 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

to an invincible energy, which quickens 
the popular ambition and urges men 
to acquire information as they acquire 
wealth, by the shortest route, and with 
the smallest exertion. 

Above all, culture is the craving of an 
experimental age, and America no doubt 
will outgrow it domination. Even now 
Boston, its earliest slave, is shaking 
off the yoke ; and it is taking refuge 
in the more modern cities of the West. 
Chicago is, I believe, its newest and 
vastest empire. There, where all is 
odd, it is well to be thought a "thinker." 
There, we are told, the elect believe 
it their duty "to reach and stimulate 
others." But wherever culture is found 
strange things are done in its name, 
and the time may come when by the 
light of Chicago s brighter lamp Boston 
may seem to dwell in the outer darkness. 



61 



CHICAGO. 

AMERICA may be defined as the country 
where there are no railway porters. 
You begin a journey without ceremony ; 
you end it without a welcome. No 
zealot, eager to find you a corner seat 
and to dispose of your luggage, meets 
you when you depart. You must carry 
your own bag when you stumble un 
attended from the train. This enforced 
dependence upon yourself is doubtless 
a result of democracy. The spirit of 
freedom, which permits a stealthy nigger 
to brush your hat, does not allow 
another to handle your luggage. To 
the enchained and servile mind of an 



62 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Englishman these distinctions are diffi 
cult to understand. A training in 
transatlantic liberty is necessary for 
their appreciation. However, no great 
evil is inflicted on the traveller. The 
ritual of checking your baggage may 
easily be learned, and the absence of 
porters has, by a natural process, evolved 
the "grip." The "grip," in fact, is the 
universal mark of America. It is as 
intimate a part of the citizen s equip 
ment as a hat or coat, and it is not 
without its advantages. It is light to 
carry, it fills but a small space, and it 
ensures that the traveller shall not be 
separated from all his luggage. A far 
greater hardship than the carriage of a 
"grip" is the enforced publicity of an 
American train. The Englishman loves 
to travel in seclusion. The end of his 
ambition is a locked compartment to 
himself. Mr Pullman has ordained that 



CHICAGO 63 

his clients shall endure the dust and 
heat of a long journey in public ; and 
when the voyager, wearied out by the 
rattle of the train, seeks his uncom 
fortable couch, he is forced to seek it 
under the general gaze. 

These differences of custom are in 
teresting, because they correspond to 
differences of temperament. There is a 
far deeper difference in the character of 
the country through which you travel. 
A journey in Europe is like a page of 
history. You pass from one century to 
another. You see a busy world through 
the window. As you sit in your corner 
a living panorama is unfolded before 
your eyes. The country changes with 
the sky. Town and mountain and corn 
field follow one another in quick suc 
cession. At every turn you see that 
wonderful symbol of romance, the white 
road that winds over the hill, flecked 



64 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

perhaps by a solitary traveller. But it 
is always the work of man, not the 
beauty of nature, that engrosses you. 
You would, if you could, alight at 
every point to witness the last act of 
comedy, which is just beginning. Men 
and women, to whom you are an epi 
sode or an obstruction, flash by. Here 
is a group of boys bathing. There 
peasants gaze at the train as something 
inhuman. At the level crossing a horse 
chafes in his shafts. In an instant you 
are whizzed out of sight, and he remains. 
Then, as night falls, the country - side 
leaves its work ; the eyes of the cot 
tages gleam and flicker through the 
trees. Round the corner you catch 
sight of a village festival. The merry- 
go-rounds glint and clank under the 
shadow of a church. The mountains 
approach and recede ; streams grow into 
mighty rivers. The grey sky is dark 



OHIO AGO 66 

blue and inlaid with stars. And you 
sit still, tired and travel-stained, having 
shared in a day the life of hundreds. 

Such is a journey in Europe. How 
different the experience in America ! On 
the road to Chicago you pass through a 
wilderness. The towns are infrequent ; 
there are neither roads nor hedges ; and 
the rapidly changing drama of life 
escapes you. The many miles of scrub 
and underwood are diversified chiefly 
by crude advertisements. Here you 
are asked to purchase Duke s Mixture ; 
there Castoria Toilet Powder is thrust 
upon your unwilling notice. In the 
few cities which you approach the 
frame-houses and plank -walks preserve 
the memory of the backwoods. In vain 
you look for the village church, which 
in Europe is never far away. In vain 
you look for the incidents which in our 
land lighten the tedium of a day s 
E 



66 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

journey. All is barren and bleak 
monotony. The thin line of railway 
seems a hundred miles from the life of 
man. At one station I caught sight of 
an "Exposition Car," which bore the 
legend, "Cuba on Wheels," and I was 
surprised as at a miracle. Outside 
Niles, a little country town, a battered 
leather - covered shay was waiting to 
take wayfarers to the Michigan Inn ; 
and the impression made by so simple 
a spectacle is the best proof of the 
railroad s isolation. There is but one 
interlude in the desolate expanse 
Niagara. 

Before he reaches the station called 
Niagara Falls, the tourist has a fore 
taste of what is in store for him. He 
is assailed in the train by touts, who 
would inveigle him into a hotel or let 
him a carriage, and to touts he is an 
unwilling prey so long as he remains 



CHICAGO 67 

within sight or hearing of the rapids. 
The trim little town which has grown 
up about the falls, and may be said to 
hang upon the water, has a holiday 
aspect. The sightseers, the little car 
riages, the summer - hotels, all wear 
the same garb of gaiety and leisure. 
There is a look of contented curiosity 
on the faces of all, who are not busy 
defacing the landscape with mills and 
power - stations, as of those about to 
contemplate a supreme wonder. And 
yet the sight of it brings the same 
sense of disappointment which the 
colossal masterpieces of nature always 
inspire. Not to be amazed at it would 
be absurd. To pretend to appreciate it 
is absurd also. "The Thunder of the 
Waters" can neither be painted upon 
canvas nor described in words. It is 
composed on a scale too large for human 
understanding. A giant might find 



68 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

some amusement in its friendly con 
templation. A man can but stand 
aghast at its sound and size, as at 
some monstrous accident. He may 
compare the Fall on the American side 
with the Horse -shoe on the Canadian. 
He has no other standard of compari 
son, since Niagara not only transcends 
all other phenomena of its kind, but 
also our human vision and imagination. 
When you see the far-tossed spray lit 
up with a flash of iridescence, you 
catch at something which makes a 
definite impression ; and you feel the 
same relief that a man may feel when 
he finds a friend in a mob of strangers. 
To heap up epithets upon this mysteri 
ous force is the idlest sport. Are you 
nearer to it when you have called it 
" deliberate, vast, and fascinating " ? 
You might as well measure its breadth 
and height, or estimate the number of 



CHICAGO 69 

gallons which descend daily from the 
broad swirling river above. A distin 
guished playwright once complained of 
Sophocles that he lacked human interest, 
and the charge may be brought with 
less injustice against Niagara. It is 
only through daring and danger that 
you can connect it with the human 
race ; and you find yourself wondering 
where it was that Captain Webb was 
hurled to his death, or by what route 
the gallant little "Maid of the Mist" 
shot the rapids to escape the curiosity 
of the excise officer. 

Nothing is more curious in the history 
of taste than the changed view which is 
taken to-day of natural scenery. Time 
was when the hand and mind of man 
were deemed necessary for a beautiful 
effect. A wild immensity of mountain 
or water was thought a mere form of 
ugliness ; a garden was a waste if it 



70 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

were not trimmed to formality; and a 
savage moorland was fit only for the 
sheep to crop. The admiration of Father 
Hennepin, the companion of La Salle, 
and the first white man who ever gazed 
upon Niagara, was tempered by affright. 
"This wonderful Downfal," said he in 
1678, " is compounded of Cross-streams 
of Water, and two Falls, with an Isle 
sloping along the middle of it. The 
Waters which fall from this horrible 
Precipice do foam and boyl after the 
most hideous manner imaginable, making 
an Outrageous Noise, more terrible than 
that of Thunder ; for when the wind 
blows out of the South, their dismal 
roaring may be heard more than Fifteen 
Leagues off." These are the epithets of 
the seventeenth century, " horrible," 
" hideous," " outrageous," " dismal." 
Now take the modern view, eloquently 
expressed in 1879 by the United States 



CHICAGO 71 

Commissioners, whose noble object was 
to preserve the Falls untouched for ever. 
"The value of Niagara to the world," 
they wrote, "and that which has 
obtained for it the homage of so many 
men whom the world reveres, lies in its 
power of appeal to the higher emotional 
and imaginative faculties, and this power 
is drawn from qualities and conditions 
too subtle to be known through verbal 
description. To a proper apprehension 
of these, something more than passing 
observation is necessary ; to an enjoy 
ment of them, something more than an 
instantaneous act of will." It is the 
old dispute between beauty and wonder, 
between classic and romantic. Who is 
in the right of it, the old priest or the 
modern commissioners? Each man will 
answer according to his temperament. 
For my part, I am on the side of Father 
Hennepin. 



72 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Niagara is not an inappropriate intro 
duction to Chicago. For Chicago also is 
beyond the scale of human comprehen 
sion and endeavour. In mere size both 
are monstrous; it is in size alone that 
they are comparable. Long before he 
reaches "the grey city," as its in 
habitants fondly call it, the traveller is 
prepared for the worst. At Pullman a 
thick pall already hangs over everything. 
The nearer the train approaches Chicago 
the drearier becomes the aspect. You 
are hauled through mile after mile of 
rubbish and scrap-heap. You receive 
an impression of sharp-edged flints and 
broken bottles. When you pass the 
"City Limits" you believe yourself at 
your journey s end. You have arrived 
only at the boundary of Chicago s 
ambition, and Chicago is forty minutes 
distant. The station, which bears the 
name " 102nd St.," is still in the prairies. 



CHICAGO 73 

A little more patience and you catch a 
first glimpse of the lake vast, smooth, 
and grey in the morning light. A jolt, 
and you are descending, grip in hand, 
upon the platform. 

The first impression of Chicago, and 
the last, is of an unfinished monstrosity. 
It might be a vast railway station, built 
for men and women twenty feet high. 
The sky-scrapers, in which it cherishes 
an inordinate pride, shut out the few 
rays of sunlight which penetrate its 
dusky atmosphere. They have not the 
excuse of narrow space which their rivals 
in New York may plead. They are built 
in mere wantonness, for within the City 
Limits, whose distance from the centre is 
the best proof of Chicago s hopefulness, 
are many miles of waste ground, covered 
only with broken fences and battered 
shanties. And, as they raise their heads 
through the murky fog, these sky- 



74 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

scrapers wear a morose and sullen look. 
If they are not mere lumps, their orna 
ment is hideously heavy and protrusive. 
They never combine, as they combine in 
New York, into an impressive whole. 
They clamour blatantly of their size, 
and that is all. And if the city be 
hideously aggressive, what word of 
excuse can be found for the outskirts, 
for the Italian and Chinese quarters, 
for the crude, new districts which 
fasten like limpets upon the formless 
mass of Chicago ? These, to an en 
during ugliness add a spice of cruelty 
and debauch, which are separate and of 
themselves. 

In its suggestion of horror Chicago is 
democratic. The rich and the poor alike 
suffer from the prevailing lack of taste. 
The proud " residences" on the Lake 
Shore are no pleasanter to gaze upon 
than the sulky sky-scrapers. Some of 



CHICAGO 75 

them are prison-houses ; others make a 
sad attempt at gaiety ; all are amazingly 
unlike the dwelling-houses of men and 
women. Yet their owners are very 
wealthy. To them nothing is denied 
that money can buy, and it is thus that 
they prefer to express themselves and 
their ambitions. What, then, is toler 
able in Chicago ? Lincoln Park, which 
the smoke and fog of the city have not 
obscured, and the grandiose lake, whose 
fresh splendour no villainy of man can 
ever deface. And at one moment of the 
day, when a dark cloud hung over the 
lake, and the sun set in a red glory 
behind the sky - scrapers, each black, 
and blacker for its encircling smoke, 
Chicago rose superior to herself and 
her surroundings. 

After ugliness, the worst foe of Chicago 
is dirt. A thick, black, sooty dust lies 
upon everything. It is at the peril of 



76 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

hands begrimed that you attempt to open 
a window. In the room that was allot 
ted to me in a gigantic hotel I found 
a pair of ancient side-spring boots, once 
the property, no doubt, of a prominent 
citizen, and their apparition intensified 
the impression of uncleanness. The 
streets are as untidy as the houses ; 
garbage is dumped in the unfinished 
roadways; and in or out of your hotel 
you will seek comfort in vain. The 
citizens of Chicago themselves are far 
too busy to think whether their city is 
spruce or untidy. Money is their quest, 
and it matters not in what circumstances 
they pursue it. The avid type is uni 
versal and insistent. The energy of New 
York is said to be mere leisure compared 
to the hustling of Chicago. Wherever 
you go you are conscious of the universal 
search after gold. The vestibule of the 
hotel is packed with people chattering, 



CHICAGO 77 

calculating, and telephoning. The clatter 
of the machine which registers the latest 
quotations never ceases. In the street 
every one is hurrying that he may not 
miss a lucrative bargain, until the in 
dustry and ambition of Chicago cul 
minate in the Board of Trade. 

The dial of the Board of Trade, or 
the Pit as it is called, is the magnet 
which attracts all the eyes of Chicago, 
for on its face is marked the shifting, 
changing price of wheat. And there on 
the floor, below the Strangers Gallery, 
the gamblers of the West play for the 
fortunes and lives of men. They stand 
between the farmers, whose waving corn 
fields they have never seen, and the 
peasants of Europe, whose taste for bread 
they do not share. It is more keenly 
exciting to bet upon the future crop of 
wheat than upon the speed of a horse ; 
and far larger sums may be hazarded 



78 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

in the Pit than on a racecourse. And 
so the livelong day the Bulls and 
Bears confront one another, gesticulat 
ing fiercely, and shouting at the top of 
their raucous voices. If on the one hand 
they ruin the farmer, or on the other 
starve the peasant, it matters not to 
them. They have enjoyed the excite 
ment, and made perchance a vast fortune 
at another s expense. They are, indeed, 
the true parasites of commerce ; and in 
spite of their intense voices and rapid 
gestures, there is an air of unreality about 
all their transactions. As I watched the 
fury of the combatants, I found myself 
wondering why samples of corn were 
thrown upon the floor. Perhaps they 
serve to feed the pigeons. 

Materialism, then, is the frank end and 
aim of Chicago. Its citizens desire to 
get rich as quickly and easily as possible. 
The means are indifferent to them. It is 



CHICAGO 79 

the pace alone which is important. All 
they want is "a business proposition" 
and "found money." And when they 
are rich, they have no other desire than 
to grow richer. Their money is useless 
to them, except to breed more money. 
The inevitable result is a savagery of 
thought and habit. If we may believe 
the newspapers of Chicago, peaceful men 
of business are "held up" at noon in 
crowded streets. The revolver is still 
a potent instrument in this city of the 
backwoods. But savagery is never with 
out its reaction. There has seldom been 
a community of barbarians which did not 
find relief in an extravagant sentiment 
ality, and Chicago, in its hours of ease, 
is an enthusiastic patron of the higher 
life. As I have said, in culture it is fast 
outstripping Boston itself. It boasts 
more societies whose object is " the 
promotion of serious thought upon art, 



80 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

science, and literature" than any other 
city in the world. The clubs which it 
has established for the proper study of 
Ibsen and Browning are without number. 
It is as eager for the enlightenment of 
women as for sending up or down the 
price of corn. The craze, which is the 
mark of a crude society, will pass like 
many others, and, though it may appear 
sincere while it lasts, it is not character 
istic. The one triumph of Chicago is its 
slang. It has invented a lingo more 
various and fuller of fancy than any 
known to man, and if it will forget Ibsen 
and exercise its invention after its own 
fashion, why should it not invent a 
new literature ? Mr George Ade, the 
Shakespeare of Chicago, has already 
shown us what can be done with the 
new speech in his masterly Fables in 
Slang, to read which is almost as good 
as a journey to the West ; and there 



CHICAGO 81 

is no reason why he should not found 
a school. 

Yet with all its faults and absurdities 
upon its face, Chicago is the happiest 
city in America. It is protected by 
the triple brass of pride against all 
the assaults of its enemies. Never in 
history was so sublime a vanity re 
vealed ; and it is hard for a stranger 
to understand upon what it is based. 
Chicago is Chicago that is what its 
citizens say, with a flattered smile, 
which makes argument useless. Its 
dirt and dust do not disconcert its 
self-esteem. The oversized ugliness of 
its buildings are no disappointment to 
its candid soul, and if its peculiar 
virtue escape your observation, so much 
the worse for you. " The marvellous 
city of the West " that is its own 
name, and it lives up to it without an 
effort. Its history, as composed by its 
F 



82 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

own citizens, is one long paean of 
praise. One chronicler, to whose un 
conscious humour I am infinitely in 
debted, dedicates his work to "the 
children of Chicago, who, if the Lord 
spares them until they shall have 
attained the allotted span of life, will 
see this city the greatest metropolis on 
the globe." That is a modest estimate, 
and it makes us feel the inadequacy of 
our poor speech to hymn the glories 
of Chicago. And if you suggest a 
fault, its panegyrists are always ready 
with a counterstroke. Having no taste 
for slaughter, I did not visit Packing 
Town, but, without admitting all the 
grave charges brought against Chicago s 
grandest industry, one might have sup 
posed that the sudden translation of 
herds of cattle into potted meat was 
not unattended with some inconveni 
ence. This suspicion, you are told, is 



OHIO AGO 83 

an insult to the city. What might 
disgust the traveller elsewhere has no 
terrors in Chicago. "This Packing- 
Town odor," we are told by a zealot, 
"has been unjustly criticised. To any 
one accustomed to it there is only 
a pleasant suggestion of rich, ruddy 
blood and long rows of tempting 
sides hung up to cool." I prefer 
not to be tempted. I can only bow 
before the ingenuity of this eulogy. 
And if, more seriously, you reproach 
the cynicism of the Pit, which on this 
side or that may compel ruin, you 
are met with a very easy rejoinder. 
"The Chicago Board of Trade" it is 
the same apologist who speaks "is a 
world - renowned commercial organisa 
tion. It exercises a wider and a more 
potential influence over the welfare of 
mankind than any other institution of 
its kind in existence." This assurance 



84 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

leaves you dumb. You might as well 
argue with a brass band as with a 
citizen of Chicago ; and doubtless you 
would wave the flag yourself if you 
stayed long enough in the wonderful 
West. 

But the panegyrist of the Pit, already 
quoted, helps us to explain Chicago s 
vanity. " The fortunes made and lost 
within the walls of the great building," 
says he proudly, " astonish the world." 
If Chicago can only astonish the world, 
that is enough. Its citizens fondly 
hope that everything they do is on 
the largest scale. Size, speed, and 
prominence are the three gods of their 
idolatry. They are not content until 
they the citizens are all prominent, 
and their buildings are all the largest 
that cumber the earth. It is a great 
comfort to those who gamble away 
their substance in the Board of Trade 



CHICAGO 85 

to reflect that the weathercock that 
surmounts its tower is the biggest ever 
seen by human eye. There is not one 
of them that will not tell you, with a 
satisfied smile, that the slowest of their 
fire-engines can go from one end of 
the city to the other in five seconds. 
There is not one of them who, in the 
dark recesses of his mind, is not sure 
that New York is a "back number." 
They are proud of the senseless height 
of their houses, and of the rapidity 
with which they mount towards the 
sky. They are proud of the shapeless 
towns which spring up about them like 
mushrooms in a single night. In brief, 
they are proud of all the things of 
which they should feel shame ; and 
even when their buildings have been 
measured and their pace has been rec 
ognised, their vanity is still a puzzle. 
For, when all the world has been 



86 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

satisfactorily amazed, what boast is left 
to the citizens of Chicago? They can 
not take delight in the soil, since the 
most of them do not belong to it. 
The patriotism of the cosmopolitan 
horde which is huddled together amid 
their lofty Cliffs must perforce be an 
artificial sentiment. They cannot look 
with satisfaction upon the dishevelled 
suburbs in which they live. They 
need not suppose the slaughtering of 
pigs and beeves is the highest duty of 
man. But wherever they dwell and 
whatever they do, they are convinced 
of their own superiority. Their pride 
is not merely revealed in print ; it is 
evident in a general familiarity of tone 
and manner. If your cabman wishes 
to know your destination, he prefaces 
his question with the immortal words, 
" Say, boys," and he thinks that he has 
put himself on amiable terms with you 



CHICAGO 87 

at once. Indeed, the newly - arrived 
stranger is instantly asked to under 
stand that he belongs to a far meaner 
city than that in which he sojourns ; 
and, even with the evidence of mis 
applied wealth before his eyes, he 
cannot believe it. 

And what amiable visions do you 
carry away from Chicago besides the 
majesty of the lake, ever changing in 
colour and aspect, and the beauty 
of Lincoln Park ? A single memory 
lingers in my mind. At sunset I saw a 
black regiment marching along Michigan 
Avenue, marching like soldiers; and 
by its side on the pavement a laugh 
ing, shouting mob of negresses danced 
a triumphant cake-walk. They grinned 
and sang and chattered in perfect happi 
ness and pride. They showed a frank 
pleasure in the prowess of their brothers 
and their friends. But, animated as 



88 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

the spectacle was, there was a sinister 
element in this joyous clatter. To an 
English eye it seemed a tragic farce 
a veritable danse macabre. 

Unhappy is the city which has no 
history ; and what has Chicago to offer 
of history or tradition ? What has it 
to tell the traveller? Once she was 
consumed, though she was not purified, 
by fire, and she still lives in the 
recollection. A visitor to a European 
city goes forth to admire a castle, a 
cathedral, a gallery of pictures. In 
Chicago he is asked to wonder at the 
shapeless residences of " prominent " 
citizens. And when the present civil 
isation fades and dies, what will be 
Chicago s ruins ? Neither temple nor 
tower will be brought to the ground. 
There will be nothing to show the 
wandering New Zealander but a broken 
city, which was a scrap-heap before it 



CHICAGO 89 

was built ; and the wandering New 
Zealander may be forgiven if he pro 
claim the uselessness of size and prog 
ress, if he ask how it has profited a 
city to buy and sell all the corn in the 
world, and in its destruction to leave 
not a wrack of comeliness behind. 



90 



NEW ENGLAND. 

IF in a country town we find an Inn 
called New, it is a sure sign of ancientry. 
The fresh and fragrant name survives 
the passing centuries. It clings to the 
falling house long after it has ceased to 
have an intelligible meaning. Taverns 
with a nobler sign and more arrogant 
aspect obscure its simpler merits. But 
there is a pride in its name, a dignity 
in its age, which a changing fashion 
will never destroy. And as it is with 
Inns, so it is with countries. New is 
an epithet redolent of antiquity. The 
province which once was, and is still 
called, New England, is very old 



NEW ENGLAND 91 

America. It cannot be judged by the 
standards which are esteemed in New 
York or Chicago. The broad stream 
of what is called progress has left it 
undisturbed in its patient backwater. 
It recks as little of sky - scrapers as 
of transportation. Its towns are not 
ashamed of being villages, and the 
vanity which it guards is not the 
vanity of shapeless size, but the rarer 
vanity of a quiet and decent life. 

No sooner does the English traveller 
leave Boston for the north than he 
enters what seems a familiar country. 
The towns which he passes, the rivers 
which he crosses, bear names, as I have 
said, to prove the faithful devotion the 
old adventurers felt for their native land. 
If they sought their fortune across the 
ocean, they piously preserved the mem 
ories of other days. Austere as were the 
early Puritans, bitterly as they smarted 



92 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

under what they supposed a political 
grievance, they did not regard the 
country of their origin with the fierce 
hatred which has sometimes inspired 
their descendants. The love of the 
New did not extinguish the love of 
the Old England. In Appledore and 
Portsmouth, in London and Manchester, 
in Newcastle and Dover, the ancient 
sentiment lives and breathes. And the 
New Englanders, once proud of their 
source, still cherish a pride in their 
blood, which they have kept pure from 
the contamination of the foreigner. 
Fortunately for itself, New England 
has fallen behind in the march of prog 
ress. There is nothing in its peace 
ful recesses to tempt the cosmopolitan 
horde which throngs the great cities 
of America. The hope of gain is 
there as small as the opportunity of 
gambling. A quiet folk, devoted to 



NEW ENGLAND 93 

fishery and agriculture, is not worth 
plundering. 

So it is there, if anywhere, that you 
may surprise the true-born American, 
and when you have surprised him, he 
very much resembles your own com 
patriot. His type and gesture are as 
familiar to you as his surroundings. 
Slow of speech and movement, he has 
not yet acquired the exhausting, pur 
poseless love of speed which devours 
the more modern cities. He goes about 
his work with a perfect consciousness 
that there are four -and -twenty hours 
in the day. And as he is not the 
victim of an undue haste, he has leisure 
for a gracious civility. It is not for 
him to address a stranger with the 
familiarity characteristic of New York 
or Chicago. Though he know it not, 
and perhaps would resent it if he 
knew it, he is profoundly influenced by 



94 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

his origin. He has not lost the high 
seriousness, the quiet gravity, which dis 
tinguished his ancestors. 

His towns, in aspect and sentiment, 
closely resemble himself. Portsmouth, 
for instance, which has not the same 
reason for self -consciousness as Salem 
or Concord, has retained the authentic 
features of the mother-land. You might 
easily match it in Kent or Essex. The 
open space in the centre of the town, 
the Athenaeum in style, name, and 
purpose, alike English are of another 
age and country than their own. There 
is a look of trim elegance everywhere, 
which refreshes the eye ; and over the 
streets there broods an immemorial peace, 
which even the echoing clangour of the 
Navy Yard cannot dispel. The houses, 
some of wood, built after the Colonial 
manner, others of red brick, and of a 
grave design, are in perfect harmony 



NEW ENGLAND 95 

with their surroundings. Nothing is 
awry : nothing is out of place. And 
so severely consistent is the impression 
of age, that down on the sunlit quay, 
flanked by the lofty warehouses, the 
slope of whose roofs is masked by 
corbie-steps, you are surprised not to 
see riding at anchor the high -pro wed 
galleons of the seventeenth century. 

And, best of all, there is the quiet, 
simple Church of St John s, English in 
feeling as in origin. Though rebuilt a 
hundred years ago, on the site of an 
earlier church, it has remained loyal to 
its history, and is the true child of the 
eighteenth century. Is it not fitting 
that the communion-plate presented by 
Queen Caroline should be treasured here ? 
That the sexton should still show you, 
even with a cold indifference, the stately 
prayer - books which once contained 
prayers for the king? That a bell, 



96 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

captured at Louisburg by Sir William 
Pepperell, should summon to the wor 
ship of God a people long forgetful of 
that proud achievement? Such are the 
evidences of an innate conservatism 
which has kept alive the old traditions 
of New England. 

Thus for three hundred years Ports 
mouth has lived the happy life of a 
country town, and its historian sadly 
notes that until 1900 its population did 
not rise to 10,000. The historian need 
feel no regret : it is not by numbers 
that we may measure the stateliness of 
a city ; and the dignity of Portsmouth 
is still plain for all to behold in the 
houses, to cite but two examples, of 
Governors Wentworth and Langdon. 
And then after this long spell of for 
tunate obscurity, Portsmouth became 
suddenly the centre of universal inter 
est. By a curious irony this little, old- 



NEW ENGLAND 97 

fashioned town was chosen to be the 
meeting-place of Kussia and Japan, and 
the first experiment in modern diplomacy 
was made in a place which has sacrificed 
nothing to a love of that intoxicant 
known as the spirit of the age. It 
was, in truth, a strange sight that 
Portsmouth saw a brief two years ago. 
Before its troubled eyes the stern con 
ference of hostile nations was turned 
to comedy. A hundred and twenty 
eager reporters publicly put up their 
support for sale in exchange for infor 
mation to the highest bidder. The 
representative of a great country was 
heard boasting to the gentlemen of 
the press of his own prowess. "The 
Japanese could not read in my face," 
said M. Witte, "what was passing in 
my heart." Isn t it wonderful ? Would 
not the diplomatists of another age be 
ashamed of their confrere could they 

G 



98 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

hear him brag of a rudimentary and 
long since dishonoured finesse? But 
the mere fact that M. Witte could make 
such a speech on American soil is a 
clear proof that the New World is not 
the proper field of diplomacy. The 
congresses of old were gay and secret. 
"Le congres," said the Prince de Ligne 
at Vienna, " ne marche pas ; il danse." 
It danced, and it kept inviolate the 
obligation of silence. The Congress at 
Portsmouth did not talk it chattered ; 
and it was an open injustice to the 
unbroken history of New England that 
President Koosevelt should have chosen 
this tranquil and ancient spot for a bold 
experiment in diplomacy by journalism. 

Across the river lies Kittery, even 
more remote from the world of greed 
and competition than Portsmouth. Here 
at last you discover what so often 
eludes you in America the real country- 



NEW ENGLAND 99 

side. The rough pleasant roads like 
English lanes, the beautiful wooden 
houses half hidden amid towering trees, 
and the gardens (or yards as they are 
called) not trim, like our English gardens, 
but of an unkempt beauty all their 
own, these, with the memory of a 
gracious hospitality, will never fade 
from my mind. At Kittery, as at 
Portsmouth, you live in the past. 
There is nothing save an electric trolley 
and the motor engines of the fishing- 
boats to recall the bustle of to-day. 
Here is Fort M Clary, a block -house 
built two centuries ago to stay the 
incursion of the Indians. There is the 
house of Pepperell, the hero of Louis- 
burg. Thus, rich in old associations, 
happy in its present seclusion, Kittery 
has a kind of personal charm, which 
is intensified by an obvious and striking 
contrast. 



100 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

It was from Newport that I went 
to Kittery, and passed in a few hours 
from the modern to the ancient world. 
Not even New York gives a more 
vivid impression of the inappropriate- 
ness which is America s besetting sin, 
than Newport, whose gay inhabitants 
are determined, at all costs, to put them 
selves at variance with time and place. 
The mansions, called cottages" in 
proud humility, are entirely out of 
proportion to their site and purpose. 
On the one hand you see a house as 
large as Chatsworth, bleak and treeless, 
with nothing to separate it from its 
ambitious neighbours but a wooden 
palisade. It suggests nothing so much 
as that it has lost its park, and mislaid 
its lodges. On the other, you see a 
massive pile, whose castellated summit 
resembles nothing else than a county 
jail. And nowhere is there a possi- 



NEW ENGLAND 101 

bility of ambush, nowhere a frail hint 
of secrecy. The people of Newport, 
moreover, is resolved to live up to its 
inappropriate environment. As it re 
joices in the wrong kind of house, so it 
delights in the wrong sort of costume. 
The vain luxury of the place is ex 
pressed in a thousand strange antics. 
A new excitement is added to sea 
bathing by the ladies, who face the 
waves in all the bravery of Parisian 
hats. To return unsullied from the 
encounter is a proof of the highest 
skill. Is it not better to preserve a 
deftly -poised hat from the mere con 
tact of the waves than to be a tireless 
and intrepid swimmer? 

Newport, in fact, has been haunted 
by a sort of ill-luck. It has never 
been able to make the best of itself. 
There was a time when its harbour 
bade fair to rival the harbour of New 



102 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

York, and when its inhabitants fondly 
believed that all the great ships of 
the world would find refuge under the 
splendid shadow of Ehode Island. And 
when this hope was disappointed for 
ever, Newport still possessed in herself 
all the elements of beauty. Whatever 
exquisite colour and perfect situation 
could give, was hers. What more can 
the eyes of man desire than green 
lawns and an incomparable sea? And 
there lies the old town to link the 
prosperity of to-day with the romance 
of yesterday. And there grow in wild 
profusion the scented hedges of honey 
suckle and roses. And all of no avail. 
The early comers to Newport, it is 
true, understood that a real cottage of 
wood was in harmony with the place. 
They built their houses to the just 
scale of the landscape, and had they 
kept their own way how happy would 



NEW ENGLAND 103 

have been the result ! But beauty gave 
way to fashion ; wealth usurped the 
sovereignty of taste ; size was mistaken 
for grandeur, in a word, the millionaire 
disfigured Newport to his whim. 

And so it ceased to be a real place. 
It became a mere collection of opposing 
mansions and quarrelsome styles. If 
the vast " cottages," which raise their 
heads higher and higher in foolish 
rivalry, were swept away, no harm 
would be done. They are there by 
accident, and they will last only so 
long as a wayward fashion tolerates 
their presence. Kittery, on the other 
hand, cannot be abolished by a caprice 
of taste. It is a village which has 
its roots in the past, and whose growth 
neither wealth nor progress has obscured. 
Above all, it possesses the virtue, great 
in towns as in men, of sincerity. It 
has not cut itself loose from its be- 



104 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

ginnings ; its houses belong harmoniously 
to itself; and it has retained through 
two centuries the character of the old 
colonial days. Nor is it without an 
historical importance. Great names cling 
about it. The men of Kittery fought on 
many a hard -won field against French 
and Indians, and, retired though it be 
from the broad stream of commerce 
and progress, it cannot dissipate the 
memory of loyal devotion to the crown 
and of military glory. 

Its hero is Sir William Pepperell, 
soldier and merchant, whose thrift and 
prowess were alike remarkable. The 
son of a Tavistock fisherman, who 
pursued fortune in the New World 
with equal energy and success, he still 
further advanced his house in wealth 
and circumstance. Accustomed from 
boyhood to the dangers of Indian war 
fare, he was as apt for arms as for 



NEW ENGLAND 105 

arts, and it is characteristic of the 
time and place that this prosperous 
merchant should be known to fame 
as the commander of a triumphant 
expedition. It was in 1745 that his 
chance came. For many years Louis- 
burg had afforded harbourage to French 
privateers, who had harried the coast 
of New England and captured rich 
cargoes of merchandise. At last Gov 
ernor Shirley of Massachusetts resolved 
to attack it, and we may judge of the 
esteem in which Pepperell was held, 
by the fact that he was appointed to 
lead an expedition against a fortress 
deemed impregnable by the French, 
and known as the Dunkirk of America. 
His selection was a tribute not merely 
to his courage but to his tact. No 
man of his time was better fitted to 
control the conflicting tempers of the 
colonial militia, and he set forth at 



106 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

the head of his 4000 men under the 
best auspices. Being a Puritan in com 
mand of Puritans, he quickened the 
bravery of his comrades by a show of 
religious zeal. He made it plain that 
he was engaged in a war against 
papistry, and he asked George White- 
field, then in America, for a motto. 
" Nil desperandum, Christo duce," said 
the preacher; and thus heartened, the 
little fleet set sail on its triumphant 
journey. At first sight the contest 
seemed unequal. On one side was 
Duchambon, an experienced soldier, 
defending a fortress which had long 
been thought invincible. On the other 
was a plain merchant in command of 
no more than 4000 militiamen. But 
the very simplicity of Pepperell s attack 
ensured its success. He sailed into the 
harbour without warning and without 
fear, in the very eye of the French 



NEW ENGLAND 107 

artillery, landed his men, and began a 
siege which resulted, after six weeks, 
in the reduction of Louisburg. It was 
a gallant feat of arms, marred only by 
the fact that a foolish Government 
declined to take advantage of a col 
onial victory. Three years later Louis- 
burg was wickedly restored to France 
in exchange for certain advantages in 
India, and a foolish policy obscured for 
a while at least the eminent services 
of William Pepperell. 

To-day the victor of Louisburg is 
not without fame save in his own 
country. Fortunately for himself, Pep 
perell died before the War of the Kevolu- 
tion, and did not see the ruin which 
overtook his family. The property 
which had passed into the hands of his 
grandchildren was confiscated. They 
were guilty of loyalty to the crown 
and country for which their ancestor 



108 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

had fought, and the third generation 
was saved from the poorhouse "by the 
bounty of individuals on whom they 
had no claims for favour." In other 
words, Pepperell s memory was dis 
honoured, because in serving New Eng 
land he had worn the king s uniform. 
In the eyes of the newly emancipated, 
treachery was retrospective. Pepperell s 
biographer explains his sin and its pun 
ishment with a perfect clarity. " The 
eventful life of Sir W. Pepperell," he 
writes, "closed a few years before the 
outbreak of the Kevolution. Patriotism 
in his day implied loyalty and fidelity 
to the King of England ; but how 
changed the meaning of that word in 
New England after the Declaration of 
Independence ! Words and deeds before 
deemed patriotic were now traitorous, 
and so deeply was their moral turpitude 
impressed on the public mind as to have 



NEW ENGLAND 109 

tainted popular opinions concerning the 
heroic deeds of our ancestors, performed 
in the King s service in the French 
Wars. . . . The War of the Kevolution 
absorbed and neutralised all the heroic 
fame of the illustrious men that pre 
ceded, and the achievements of Pepperell, 
of Johnson, and of Bradstreet are now 
almost forgotten." These words were 
written in 1855, and they have not yet 
lost their truth. 

For us this forgetfulness is not easily 
intelligible. It is our habit to attach 
ourselves closely to the past. If there 
have been conflicts, they have left no 
rancour, no bitterness. The winner has 
been modest, the loser magnanimous. 
The centuries of civil strife which de 
vastated England imposed no lasting 
hostility. Nobody cares to-day whether 
his ancestor was Cavalier or Eound- 
head. The keenest Koyalist is willing 



110 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

to acknowledge the noble prowess and 
the political genius of Cromwell. The 
hardiest Puritan pays an eager tribute 
to the exalted courage of Charles I. 
But the Americans have taken another 
view. They would, if they could, dis 
card the bonds which unite them with 
England. For the mere glamour of in 
dependence they would sacrifice the 
glory of the past. They would even 
assume an hostility to their ancestors 
because these ancestors were of English 
blood. They seem to believe that if 
they forget their origin persistently 
enough it will be transformed. The 
top of their ambition would be reached 
if they could suppose that they were 
autochthonous, that they sprang into 
being fully armed upon American soil. 
It irks them to think that other races 
have had a hand in creating " God s 
own country," and they are happiest 



NEW ENGLAND 111 

when they can convince themselves that 
a man changes his heart and his mind 
as well as his sky when he leaves Europe 
for America. And so they pursue the 
policy of the ostrich. They bury the 
head of their past in the sandy desert of 
the present, and hope that nobody will 
detect the trick of their concealment. 

In the Church of St John at Ports 
mouth there is, as I have said, an 
English prayer-book from which the 
page containing prayers for the king 
has been violently torn. This incident 
symbolises very aptly the attitude of 
America. The country has not yet re 
covered from the hostility which it once 
professed to George III. It assumes 
that a difference of policy always implies 
a moral taint. The American Colonies 
broke away from the mother country ; 
therefore George III. was a knave, whose 
name may not be mentioned without 



112 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

dishonour, and all the brave men who 
served him in serving the colonies are 
dishonoured also. It is not quite clear 
why this feeling has been kept alive so 
long. Perhaps the violent rhetoric of 
the Declaration of Independence has 
aided its survival. Perhaps, too, the 
sense of gravity, which always over 
takes the American public man when 
he considers what These States have 
achieved, is not without its weight. 
But whatever the cause, it is certain 
that shame and animosity still exist on 
the other side of the ocean : shame for 
noble deeds accomplished by brave men ; 
animosity against a loyal antagonist, who 
long ago forgot the ancient quarrel and 
its consequence. 

And yet the force and habit of tradi 
tion cannot forcibly be shaken off. 
Though New England, in forgetting 
the heroes who fought under British 



NEW ENGLAND 113 

colours, has attempted to break the 
continuity of history, it is in New 
England where the links in the ancient 
chain are most stoutly coupled. Though 
all the prayer-books in the world be 
destroyed, the marks of its origin will 
still be stamped indelibly upon the face 
of the country. The very dourness 
which persuades these stern men to look 
with regret upon their beginnings is but 
a part of the puritanical character which 
drove them to take refuge in a foreign 
land. Stiff-necked and fanatical as they 
were, when they left England, they did 
but intensify their hard fanaticism in 
the new land. For there they were all 
of one party, and their children grew 
up without the wholesome stimulant of 
opposition. And if perchance one or two 
strayed from the fold of strict allegiance, 
the majority were cruel in punishment. 
They became persecutors for what they 



114 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

believed was righteousness sake, and 
their cruelty was the more severe be 
cause it was based, as they believed, 
upon a superior morality. And so they 
grew, as an American historian has said, 
to hate the toleration for which they 
once fought, to deplore the liberty of 
conscience for whose sake they had been 
ready to face exile. What in themselves 
they praised for liberty and toleration, 
they denounced in others as carelessness 
or heresy. So they cultivated a hard 
habit of thought ; so they esteemed too 
seriously the efforts they made in the 
cause of freedom ; so they still exag 
gerate the importance of the Eevolution, 
which the passage of time should compel 
them to regard with a cold and dispas 
sionate eye. 

But if in a certain pitilessness of 
character the New Englanders are more 
English than the English, they still 



NEW ENGLAND 115 

resemble the Puritans of the seven 
teenth century in their love of a well- 
ordered life. It was in their towns and 
villages that the old colonial life flour 
ished to the wisest purpose. The houses 
which they built, and which still stand, 
are the perfection of elegance and 
comfort. The simplicity of their aspect 
is matched by the beauty which con 
fronts you when once you have crossed 
the threshold. The columns which flank 
the porch, the pilasters which break the 
monotony of the wooden walls, are but 
a faint indication of the elegance within. 
Like the palaces of the Moors, they 
reserve the best of themselves for the 
interior, and reveal all their beauty only 
to their intimates. The light staircases, 
with turned rails and lyre-shaped ends ; 
the panelled rooms; the dainty fire 
places, adorned with Dutch tiles ; the 
English furniture, which has not left 



116 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

its first home ; the spacious apartments, 
of which the outside gives no warning, 
these impart a quiet dignity, a pleasant 
refinement, to the colonial houses which 
no distance of time or space can impair. 
There is a house at Kittery of which the 
planks were cut out there in the forest, 
were sent to England to be carved and 
shaped, and were then returned to their 
native woodland to be fashioned into a 
house. Thus it belongs to two worlds, 
and thus it is emblematic of the New 
Englanders who dwell about it, and 
who, owing their allegiance to a new 
country, yet retain the impress of a 
character which was their ancestors 7 
almost three centuries ago. 



117 



THE YELLOW PRESS. 

IF all countries may boast the Press 
which they deserve, America s desert is 
small indeed. No civilised country in 
the world has been content with news 
papers so grossly contemptible as those 
which are read from New York to the 
Pacific Coast. The journals known as 
Yellow would be a disgrace to dusky 
Timbuctoo, and it is difficult to under 
stand the state of mind which can 
tolerate them. Divorced completely 
from the world of truth and intelligence, 
they present nothing which an educated 
man would desire to read. They are 
said to be excluded from clubs and from 



118 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

respectable houses. But even if this 
prohibition be a fact, their proprietors 
need feel no regret. We are informed 
by the Yellowest of Editors that his 
burning words are read every day by 
five million men and women. 

What, then, is the aspect and char 
acter of these Yellow Journals ? As 
they are happily strange on our side 
the ocean, they need some description. 
They are ill - printed, over - illustrated 
sheets, whose end and aim are to in 
flame a jaded or insensitive palate. 
They seem to address the blind eye 
and the sluggish mind of the half 
witted. The wholly unimportant infor 
mation which they desire to impart is 
not conveyed in type of the ordinary 
shape and size. The " scare " headlines 
are set forth in letters three inches in 
height. It is as though the editors of 
these sheets are determined to exhaust 



THE YELLOW PRESS 119 

your attention. They are not content 
to tell you that this or that inapposite 
event has taken place. They pant, they 
shriek, they yell. Their method repre 
sents the beating of a thousand big 
drums, the blare of unnumbered trum 
pets, the shouted blasphemies of a 
million raucous throats. And if, with 
all this noise dinning in your ear, you 
are persuaded to read a Yellow sheet, 
which is commonly pink in colour, you 
are grievously disappointed. The thing 
is not even sensational. Its " scare " 
headlines do but arouse a curiosity which 
the " brightest and brainiest" reporter 
in the United States is not able to 
satisfy. 

Of what happens in the great world 
you will find not a trace in the Yellow 
Journals. They betray no interest in 
politics, in literature, or in the fine arts. 
There is nothing of grave importance 



120 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

which can be converted into a "good 
story." That a great man should per 
form a great task is immaterial. Noble 
deeds make no scandal, and are therefore 
not worth reporting. But if you can 
discover that the great man has a hid 
den vice, or an eccentric taste in boots 
or hats, there is "copy" ready to your 
hand. All things and all men must be 
reduced to a dead level of imbecility. 
The Yellow Press is not obscene it has 
not the courage for that. Its proud 
boast is that it never prints a line that 
a father might not read to his daughter. 
It is merely personal and impertinent. 
No one s life is secure from its spies. No 
privacy is sacred. Mr Stead s famous 
ideal of an ear at every keyhole is 
magnificently realised in America. A 
hundred reporters are ready, at a 
moment s notice, to invade houses, to un 
cover secrets, to molest honest citizens 



THE YELLOW PRESS 121 

with indiscreet questions. And if their 
victims are unwilling to respond, they 
pay for it with public insult and 
malicious invention. Those who will 
not bow to the common tyrant of the 
Press cannot complain if words are 
ascribed to them which they never 
uttered, if they are held guilty of deeds 
from which they would shrink in horror. 
Law and custom are alike powerless to 
fight this tyranny, which is the most 
ingenious and irksome form of blackmail 
yet invented. 

The perfect newspaper, if such were 
possible, would present to its readers a 
succinct history of each day as it passes. 
It would weigh with a scrupulous hand 
the relative importance of events. It 
would give to each department of human 
activity no more than its just space. It 
would reduce scandal within the narrow 
limits which ought to confine it. Under 



122 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

its wise auspices murder, burglary, and 
suicide would be deposed from the 
eminence upon which an idle curiosity 
has placed them. Those strange beings 
known as public men would be famous 
not for what their wives wear at some 
body else s "At Home," but for their 
own virtues and attainments. The 
foolish actors and actresses, who now 
believe themselves the masters of the 
world, would slink away into entreflets 
on a back page. The perfect newspaper, 
in brief, would resemble a Palace of 
Truth, in which deceit was impossible 
and vanity ridiculous. It would crush 
the hankerers after false reputations, it 
would hurl the foolish from the mighty 
seats which they try to fill, and it would 
present an invaluable record to future 
generations. 

What picture of its world does the 
Yellow Press present ? A picture of 



THE YELLOW PRESS 123 

colossal folly and unpardonable indis 
cretion. If there be a museum which 
preserves these screaming sheets, this is 
the sort of stuff which in two thousand 
years will puzzle the scholars : " Mrs 
Jones won t admit Wedding," " Million 
aires Bet on a Snake Fight," "Chicago 
Church Girl Accuses Millionaire," "Ath 
letics make John D. forget his Money." 
These are a few pearls hastily strung 
together, and they show what jewels of 
intelligence are most highly prized by 
the Greatest Democracy on earth. Now 
and again the editor takes his readers 
into his confidence and asks them to 
interfere in the affairs of persons whom 
they will never know. Here, for in 
stance, is a characteristic problem set 
by an editor whose knowledge of his 
public exceeds his respect for the 
decencies of life : " What Mrs Washing 
ton ought to do. Her husband Wall 



124 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Street Broker. Got tired of Her and 
Deserted. But Mrs Washington, who 
still loves him dearly, Is determined to 
win him back. And here is the Advice 
of the Eeaders of this Journal." Is it 
not monstrous this interference with 
the privacy of common citizens ? And 
yet this specimen has an air of dignity 
compared with the grosser exploits of 
the hired eavesdropper. Not long since 
there appeared in a Sunday paper a full 
list, with portraits and biographies, of 
all the ladies in New York who are 
habitual drunkards. From which it is 
clear that the law of libel has sunk into 
oblivion, and that the cowhide is no 
longer a useful weapon. 

The disastrous effect upon the people 
of such a Press as I have described is 
obvious. It excites the nerves of the 
feeble, it presents a hideously false 
standard of life, it suggests that nobody 



THE YELLOW PRESS 125 

is secure from the omnipotent eaves 
dropper, and it preaches day after day 
at the top of its husky voice the gospel 
of snobbishness. But it is not merely 
the public manners which it degrades ; 
it does its best to hamper the proper 
administration of the law. In America 
trial by journalism has long supple 
mented, and goes far to supplant, trial 
by jury. If a murder be committed its 
detection is not left to the officers of 
the police. A thousand reporters, cun 
ning as monkeys, active as sleuth-hounds, 
are on the track. Whether it is the 
criminal that they pursue or an innocent 
man is indifferent to them. Heedless of 
injustice, they go in search of " copy." 
They interrogate the friends of the 
victim, and they uncover the secrets of 
all the friends and relatives he may 
have possessed. They care not how 
they prejudice the public mind, or what 



126 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

wrong they do to innocent men. If 
they make a fair trial impossible, it 
matters not. They have given their 
tired readers a new sensation ; they have 
stimulated gossip in a thousand tene 
ment houses ; justice may fall in ruins 
so long as they sell another edition. 
And nobody protests against their un 
bridled licence, not even when they 
have made it an affair of the utmost 
difficulty and many weeks to empanel 
an unprejudiced jury. 

The greatest opportunity of the Yellow 
Press came when a Mr H. K. Thaw 
murdered an accomplished architect. 
The day after the murder the trial 
began in the newspapers, and it was 
" run as a serial " for months. The lives 
of the murderer and his victim were 
uncovered with the utmost effrontery. 
The character of the dead man was 
painted in the blackest colours by cow- 



THE YELLOW PRESS 127 

ards, who knew that they were beyond 
the reach of vengeance. The murderer s 
friends and kinsmen were compelled 
to pay their tribute to the demon of 
publicity. The people was presented 
with plans of the cell in which the 
man Thaw was imprisoned, while photo 
graphs of his wife and his mother were 
printed day after day that a silly mob 
might note the effect of anguish on the 
human countenance. And, not content 
with thus adorning the tale, the journals 
were eloquent in pointing the moral. 
Sentimental spinsters were invited to 
warn the lady typewriters of America 
that death and ruin inevitably overtake 
the wrongdoer. Stern -eyed clergymen 
thought well to anticipate justice in 
sermons addressed to erring youth. 
Finally, a plebiscite decided, by 2 to 1, 
that Thaw should immediately be set 
free. And when you remember the 



128 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

arrogant tyranny of the Yellow Journals, 
you are surprised that at the mere 
sound of the people s voice the prison 
doors did not instantly fly open. 

We have been told, as though it were 
no more than a simple truth, that the 
Yellow Press the journals owned by 
Mr Hearst not merely made the 
Spanish - American War, but procured 
the assassination of Mr M Kinley. The 
statement seems incredible, because it 
is difficult to believe that such stuff as 
this should have any influence either 
for good or evil. The idle gossip and 
flagrant scandal which are its daily food 
do not appear to be efficient leaders of 
opinion. But it is the Editorial columns 
which do the work of conviction, and 
they assume an air of gravity which 
may easily deceive the unwary. And 
their gravity is the natural accompani 
ment of scandal. There is but a slender 



THE YELLOW PRESS 129 

difference between barbarity and senti- 
mentalism. The same temper which 
delights in reading of murder and 
sudden death weeps with anguish at 
the mere hint of oppression. No cheek 
is so easily bedewed by the unnecessary 
tear as the cheek of the ruffian and 
those who compose the " editorials " 
for Mr Hearst s papers have cynically 
realised this truth. They rant and they 
cant and they argue, as though nothing 
but noble thoughts were permitted to 
lodge within the poor brains of their 
readers. Their favourite gospel is the 
gospel of Socialism. They tell the 
workers that the world is their in 
alienable inheritance, that skill and 
capital are the snares of the evil one, 
and that nothing is worth a reward 
save manual toil. They pretend for a 
moment to look with a kindly eye upon 
the Trusts, because, when all enterprises 
I 



130 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

and industries are collected into a small 
compass, the people will have less trouble 
in laying hands upon them. In brief, 
they teach the supreme duty of plunder 
with all the staccato eloquence at their 
command. For the man whose thrift 
and energy have helped him to success 
they have nothing but contempt. They 
cannot think of the criminal without 
bursting into tears. And, while they 
lay upon the rich man the guilty burden 
of his wealth, they charge the commun 
ity with the full responsibility for the 
convict s misfortune. Such doctrines, 
cunningly taught, and read day after 
day by the degenerate and unrestrained, 
can only have one effect, and that effect, 
no doubt, the " editorials " of the 
Yellow Press will some day succeed in 
producing. 

The result is, of course, revolution, 
and revolution is being carefully and 



THE YELLOW PRESS 131 

insidiously prepared after the common 
fashion. Not a word is left unsaid 
that can flatter the criminal or en 
courage the thriftless. Those who are 
too idle to work but not too idle to 
read the Sunday papers are told that it 
will be the fault of their own inaction, 
not of the Yellow Press, if they do 
not some day lay violent hands upon 
the country s wealth. And when they 
are tired of politics the Yellow Edi 
tors turn to popular philosophy or 
cheap theology for the solace of their 
public. To men and women excited 
by the details of the last murder they 
discourse of the existence of God in 
short, crisp sentences, and I know 
not which is worse, the triviality of 
the discourse or its inappositeness. 
They preface one of their most impas 
sioned exhortations with the words : 
"If you read this, you will probably 



132 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

think you have wasted time." Though 
this might with propriety stand for 
the motto of all the columns of all 
Mr Hearst s journals, here it is clearly 
used in the same hope which inspires 
the sandwichman to carry on his front 
the classic legend : " Please do not look 
on my back." But what is dearest to 
the souls of these editors is a mean 
commonplace. One leader, which surely 
had a triumphant success, is headed, 
"What the Bar-tender Sees." And the 
exordium is worthy so profound a 
speculation. "Did you ever stop to 
think," murmurs the Yellow philoso 
pher, " of all the strange beings that 
pass before him ? " There s profundity 
for you ! There s invention ! Is it won 
derful that five million men and women 
read these golden words, or others of a 
like currency, every day ? 

And politics, theology, and philos- 



THE YELLOW PRESS 133 

ophy are all served up in the same 
thick sauce of sentiment. The " baby " 
seems to play a great part in the Yellow 
morality. One day you are told, " A 
baby can educate a man " ; on another 
you read, " Last week s baby will surely 
talk some day," and you are amazed, 
as at a brilliant discovery. And you 
cannot but ask : To whom are these 
exhortations addressed ? To children or 
to idiots ? The grown men and women 
of the United States, can hardly regard 
such poor twaddle as this with a serious 
eye. And what of the writers ? How 
can they reconcile their lofty tone, 
which truly is above suspicion, with the 
shameful sensationalism of their news- 
columns ? They know not the mean 
ing of sincerity. If they really be 
lieved that " a baby can educate a 
man," they would suppress their re 
porters. In short, they are either 



134 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

blind or cynical. From these alter 
natives there is no escape, and for 
their sakes, as well as for America s, 
I hope they write with their tongue in 
their cheeks. 

The style of the Yellow Journals is 
appropriate to their matter. The head 
lines live on and by the historic present ; 
the text is as bald as a paper of stat 
istics. It is the big type that does 
the execution. The " story " itself, to 
use the slang of the newspaper, is 
seldom either humorous or picturesque. 
Bare facts and vulgar incidents are 
enough for the public, which cares as 
little for wit as for sane writing. One 
fact only can explain the imbecility of 
the Yellow Press : it is written for im 
migrants, who have but an imperfect 
knowledge of English, who prefer to 
see their news rather than to read it, 
and who, if they must read, can best 



THE YELLOW PRESS 135 

understand words of one syllable and 
sentences of no more than five words. 

For good or evil, America has the 
sole claim to the invention of the 
Yellow Press. It came, fully armed, 
from the head of its first proprietor. 
It owes nothing to Europe, nothing to 
the traditions of its own country. It 
grew out of nothing, and, let us hope, 
it will soon disappear into nothingness. 
The real Press of America was rather 
red than yellow. It had an energy 
and a character which still exist in 
some more reputable sheets, and which 
are the direct antithesis of Yellow sen 
sationalism. The horsewhip and re 
volver were as necessary to its conduct 
as the pen and inkpot. If the editors 
of an older and wiser time insulted 
their enemies, they were ready to de 
fend themselves, like men. They did 
not eavesdrop and betray. They would 



136 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

have scorned to reveal the secrets of 
private citizens, even though they did 
not refrain their hand from their rivals. 
Yet, with all their brutality, they were 
brave and honourable, and you cannot 
justly measure the degradation of the 
Yellow Press unless you cast your mind 
a little further back and contemplate the 
achievement of another generation. 

The tradition of journalism came to 
America from England. * The Sun, 
The Tribune/ and The Post, as wise 
and trustworthy papers as may be 
found on the surface of the globe, are 
still conscious of their origin, though 
they possess added virtues of their 
own. The New York Herald/ as con 
ducted by James Gordon Bennett the 
First, modelled its scurrilous energy 
upon the Press of our eighteenth 
century. The influence of Junius and 
the pamphleteers was discernible in its 



THE YELLOW PRESS 137 

columns, and many of its articles might 
have been signed by Wilkes himelf. 
But there was something in The 
Herald which you would seek in vain 
in Perry s * Morning Chronicle, say, or 
The North Briton, and that was the 
free-and-easy style of the backwoods. 
Gordon Bennett grasped as well as any 
one the value of news. He boarded 
vessels far out at sea that he might 
forestall his rivals. In some respects 
he was as " yellow " as his successor, 
whose great exploit of employing a man 
convicted of murder to report the trial 
of a murderer is not likely to be for 
gotten. On the other hand, he set 
before New York the history of Europe 
and of European thought with appre 
ciation and exactitude. He knew the 
theatre of England and France more 
intimately than most of his contempor 
aries, and he did a great deal to en- 



138 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

courage the art of acting in his own 
country. Above all things he was a 
fighter, both with pen and fist. He 
had something of the spirit which in 
spired the old mining - camp. " We 
never saw the man we feared," he 
once said, " nor the woman we had 
not some liking for." That healthy, 
if primitive, sentiment breathes in all 
his works. And his magnanimity was 
equal to his courage. " I have no ob 
jection to forgive enemies," he wrote, 
"particularly after I have trampled 
them under my feet." This principle 
guided his life and his journal, and, 
while it gave a superb dash of energy 
to his style, it put a wholesome 
fear into the hearts and heads of his 
antagonists. 

One antagonist there was who knew 
neither fear nor forgetfulness, and he 
attacked Bennett again and again. 



THE YELLOW PRESS 139 

Bennett returned his blows, and then 
made most admirable " copy " of the 
assault. The last encounter between the 
two is so plainly characteristic of Ben 
nett s style that I quote his description 
in his own words. " As I was leisurely 
pursuing my business yesterday in Wall 
Street," wrote Bennett, " collecting the 
information which is daily disseminated 
in The Herald/ James Watson Webb 
came up to me, on the northern side 
of the street said something which I 
could not hear distinctly, then pushed 
me down the stone steps leading to 
one of the brokers offices, and com 
menced fighting with a species of brutal 
and demoniac desperation characteristic 
of a fury. My damage is a scratch, 
about three - quarters of an inch in 
length, on the third finger of the left 
hand, which I received from the iron 
railing I was forced against, and three 



140 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

buttons torn from my vest, which my 
tailor will reinstate for six cents. His 
loss is a rent from top to bottom of 
a very beautiful black coat, which cost 
the ruffian 840, and a blow in the face 
which may have knocked down his 
throat some of his infernal teeth for 
all I know. Balance in my favour 
$39 94. As to intimidating me, or 
changing my course, the thing cannot 
be done. Neither Webb nor any other 
man shall, or can, intimidate me. . . . 
I may be attacked, I may be assailed, 
I may be killed, I may be murdered, 
but I will never succumb." 

There speaks the true Gordon Bennett, 
and his voice, though it may be the 
voice of a ruffian, is also the voice of 
a man who is certainly courageous and 
is not without humour. It is not from 
such a tradition as that, that the Yellow 
Press emerged. It does not want much 



THE YELLOW PRESS 141 

pluck to hang about and sneak secrets. 
It is the pure negation of humour to 
preach Socialism in the name of the crim 
inal and degenerate. To judge America 
by this product would be monstrously 
unfair, but it corresponds perforce to 
some baser quality in the cosmopolitans 
of the United States, and it cannot be 
overlooked. As it stands, it is the 
heaviest indictment of the popular taste 
that can be made. There is no vice 
so mean as impertinent curiosity, and 
it is upon this curiosity that the Yellow 
Press meanly lives and meanly thrives. 

What is the remedy ? There is none, 
unless time brings with it a natural 
reaction. It is as desperate a task to 
touch the Press as to change the Con 
stitution. The odds against reform are 
too great. A law to check the exuber 
ance of newspapers would never survive 
the attacks of the newspapers themselves. 



142 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Nor is it only in America that reform 
is necessary. The Press of Europe, also, 
has strayed so far from its origins as 
to be a danger to the State. In their 
inception the newspapers were given free 
dom, that they might expose and check 
the corruption and dishonesty of poli 
ticians. It was thought that publicity 
was the best cure for intrigue. For 
a while the liberty of the Press seemed 
justified. It is justified no longer. 
The licence which it assumes has led 
to far worse evils than those which 
it was designed to prevent. In other 
words, the slave has become a tyrant, 
and where is the statesman who shall 
rid us of this tyranny ? Failure alone 
can kill what lives only upon popular 
success, and it is the old-fashioned, 
self-respecting journals which are facing 
ruin. Prosperity is with the large cir 
culations, and a large circulation is no 



THE YELLOW PRESS 143 

test of merit. Success is made neither 
by honesty nor wisdom. The people 
will buy what flatters its vanity or 
appeals to its folly. And the Yellow 
Press will flourish, with its headlines and 
its vulgarity, until the mixed popula 
tion of America has sufficiently mastered 
the art of life and the English tongue 
to demand something better wherewith 
to solace its leisure than scandal and 
imbecility. 



144 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM. 

GUARDING the entrance to New York 
there stands, lofty and austere, the 
statue of Liberty. It is this statue 
which immigrants, on their way to 
Ellis Island, are wont to apostrophise. 
To contemplate it is, we are told, to 
know the true meaning of life, to taste 
for the first time the sweets of an un 
trammelled freedom. No sooner does 
M. Bartholdi s beneficent matron smile 
upon you, than you cast off the chains 
of an ancient slavery. You forget in 
a moment the years which you have 
misspent under the intolerable burden 
of a monarch. Be you Pole or Russ, 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 145 

Briton or Ruthenian, you rejoice at the 
mere sight of this marvel, in a new 
hope, in a boundless ambition. Un 
conscious of what awaits you, you 
surrender yourself so eagerly to the 
sway of sentiment that you are un 
able to observe the perfections of your 
idol. You see only its vast size. You 
are content to believe the official state 
ment that 305 feet separate the tip of 
the lady s torch from low water. You 
know that you gaze on the largest 
statue upon earth. And surely it 
should be the largest, for it symbol 
ises a greater mass of Liberty than 
ever before was gathered together upon 
one continent. 

For Liberty is a thing which no 
one in America can escape. The old 
inhabitant smiles with satisfaction as he 
murmurs the familiar word. At every 
turn it is clubbed into the unsuspecting 
K 



146 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

visitor. If an aspirant to the citizen 
ship of the Eepublic declined to be free, 
he would doubtless be thrown into a 
dungeon, fettered and manacled, until 
he consented to accept the precious 
boon. You cannot pick up a news 
paper without being reminded that 
Liberty is the exclusive possession of 
the United States. The word, if not 
the quality, is the commonplace of 
American history. It looks out upon 
you the word again, not the quality 
from every hoarding. It is uttered 
in every discourse, and though it irks 
you to listen to the boasting of Lib 
erty, as it irks you when a man vaunts 
his honour, you cannot but inquire 
what is this fetish which distinguishes 
America from the rest of the habitable 
globe, and what does it achieve for 
those who worship it. 

In what, then, does the Liberty of 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 147 

America consist ? Is it in freedom of 
opportunity ? A career is open to all 
the talents everywhere. The supersti 
tions of Europe, the old-fashioned titles 
of effete aristocracies, are walls more 
easily surmounted than the golden barri 
cades of omnipotent corporations. Does 
it consist in political freedom ? If we 
are to believe in the pedantry that 
Liberty is the child of the ballot-box, 
then America has no monopoly of its 
blessings. The privilege of voting is 
almost universal, and the freedom which 
this poor privilege confers is within 
the reach of Englishman, German, or 
Frenchman. Indeed, it is America 
which sets the worst stumbling-block 
in the voter s path. The citizen, how 
ever high his aspiration after Liberty 
may be, wages a vain warfare against 
the cunning of the machine. Where 
repeaters and fraudulent ballots flourish, 



148 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

it is idle to boast the blessings of the 
suffrage. Such institutions as Tammany 
are essentially practical, but they do 
not help the sacred cause commemor 
ated in M. Bartholdi s statue ; and if 
we would discover the Liberty of Amer 
ica, we must surely look outside the 
ring of boodlers and politicians who 
have held the franchise up to ridicule. 
Is, then, the boasted Liberty a liberty 
of life ? One comes and goes with ease 
as great in England as in America. 
There are even certain restrictions im 
posed in the home of Freedom, of which 
we know nothing on this side the 
Atlantic, where we fear the curiosity 
of the Press as little as we dread the 
exactions of hungry monopolies. Of 
many examples, two will suffice to 
illustrate the hardships of a democratic 
tyranny. Not long since the most 
famous actress of our generation was 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 149 

prevented by a trust of all-powerful 
managers from playing in the theatres 
of America, and was compelled to take 
refuge in booths and tents. Being a 
lady of courage and resource, she filled 
her new rdle with perfect success, and 
completely outwitted her envious rivals. 
The victory was snatched, by the actress s 
own energy, from the very jaws of 
Liberty. Far more unfortunate was the 
fate of M. Gorki, who visited America 
to preach the gospel of Freedom, as he 
thought, in willing ears. With the 
utmost propriety he did all that was 
expected of him. He apostrophised the 
statue in a voice tremulous with emotion. 
He addressed the great Continent, as 
it loves to be addressed. " America ! 
America ! " he exclaimed, " how I have 
longed for this day, when my foot should 
tread the soil where despotism cannot 
live ! " Alas for his lost enthusiasm ! 



150 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

A despot, grim and pitiless, was waiting 
for him round the corner. In other 
words, the proprietor of his hotel dis 
covered that Mme. Gorki had no right 
to that name, and amid the cheers of 
the guests he and his companion were 
driven shamefully into the street. Were 
it not for the wanton inconvenience 
inflicted upon M. Gorki, the comedy of 
the situation would be priceless. The 
Friends of Russian Freedom, piously 
enamoured of assassination, and listen 
ing intently for the exquisite reverbera 
tion of the deadly bomb, sternly demand 
of the Apostle his marriage-lines. The 
Apostle of Revolution, unable to satisfy 
the demand, is solemnly excommuni 
cated, as if he had apostrophised no 
statue, as if he had felt no expansion 
of his lungs, no tingling of his blood, 
when he first breathed the air of 
Freedom. Liberty ! Liberty ! many 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 151 

follies have been committed in thy 
name ! And now thy voice is hushed 
in inextinguishable laughter ! 

The truth is, American Liberty is 
the mere creature of rhetoric. It is a 
survival from the time when the natural 
rights of man inspired a simple faith, 
when eager citizens declared that kings 
were the eternal enemies of Freedom. 
Its only begetter was Thomas Jefferson, 
and its gospel is preached in the famous 
Declaration of Independence. The dog 
matism and pedantry upon which it is 
based are easily confuted. Something 
else than a form of government is 
necessary to ensure political and per 
sonal liberty. Otherwise the Black 
Eepublic would be a model to England. 
But Jefferson, not being a philosopher, 
and knowing not the rudiments of 
history, was unable to look beyond the 
few moral maxims which he had com- 



152 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

mitted to memory. He was sure that 
the worst republic was better than the 
noblest tyranny the world had ever 
seen. He appealed not to experience 
but to sentiment, and he travelled up 
and down Europe with his eyes closed 
and his mind responsive only to the 
echoes of a vain theory. " If all the 
evils which can arise among us," said 
he, "from the republican form of our 
government, from this day to the Day 
of Judgment, could be put into a 
scale against what France suffers from 
its monarchical form in a week, or 
England in a month, the latter would 
preponderate." Thus he said, in sublime 
ignorance of the past, in perfect mis 
understanding of the future. And his 
empty words echo to-day in the wig 
wams of Tammany. 

All forms of government have their 
strength and their weakness. They are 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 153 

not equally suitable to all races and to 
all circumstances. It was this obvious 
truth that Jefferson tore to shreds before 
the eyes of his compatriots. He per 
suaded them to accept his vague gener 
alities as a sober statement of philosophic 
truth, and he aroused a hatred of king 
ship in America which was comic in ex 
pression and disastrous in result. It was 
due to his influence that plain citizens 
hymned the glories of " Guillotina, the 
Tenth Muse," and fell down in worship 
before a Phrygian cap. It was due to 
his influence that in 1793 the death of 
Louis XVI. was celebrated throughout 
the American continent with grotesque 
symbolism and farcical solemnity. A 
single instance is enough to prove the 
malign effect of Jefferson s teaching. 
At Philadelphia the head of a pig was 
severed from its body, and saluted 
as an emblem of the murdered king. 



154 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

"Each one," says the historian, plac 
ing the cap of liberty upon his head, 
pronounced the word tyrant ! and 
proceeded to mangle with his knife the 
head of the luckless creature doomed 
to be served for so unworthy a com 
pany." And the voice of Jefferson still 
speaks in the land. Obedient to his 
dictate, Americans still take a senti 
mental view of Liberty. For them 
Liberty is still an emotion to feel, not 
a privilege to enjoy. They are willing 
to believe that a monarch means slavery. 
America is the greatest republic on earth, 
they argue, and therefore it is the chosen 
and solitary home of Freedom. 

So, ignoring the peculiar enslave 
ments of democracy, forgetting the 
temptations to which the noblest re 
public is exposed, they proclaim a 
monopoly of the sovereign virtue, and 
cast a cold eye of disdain upon the 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 155 

tradition of older countries. The 
author of Triumphant Democracy/ for 
instance, asserts that he " was denied 
political equality by his native land." 
We do not know for what offence he 
was thus heavily punished, and it is 
consoling to reflect that the beloved 
Kepublic has made him " the peer of 
any man." It has not made any other 
man his peer. He is separated far 
more widely by his wealth from the 
workmen, whom he patronises, than the 
meanest day-labourer in England from 
the dukes to whom he is supposed to 
bend the knee; and if Mr Carnegie s 
be the fine flower of American Liberty, 
we need hardly regret that ours is of 
another kind. 

In Jefferson s despite, men are not 
made free and equal by the frequent 
repetition of catchwords, and it is by 
a fine irony that America, which prides 



156 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

itself upon a modern spirit, should still 
be swayed by a foolish superstition, 
more than a century old, that the cant 
of Liberty and Equality, uttered by a 
slave -owner in 1776, should still warp 
its intelligence. " I don t know what 
liberty means," said Lord Byron, " never 
having seen it ; " and it was in candour 
rather than in experience that Byron 
differed from his fellows. Nor has any 
one else seen what eluded Byron. A 
perfectly free man must be either un 
civilised or decivilised a savage stronger 
than his fellows or an undetected anarch 
armed with a bomb, A free society is 
a plain contradiction, for a society must 
be controlled by law, and law is an 
instant curtailment of Liberty. And, 
if you would pursue this chimera, it is 
not in a democracy that you are likely 
to surprise it. Liberty is a prize which 
will always escape you in a mob. The 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 157 

supremacy of the people means the 
absolute rule of the majority, in defer 
ence to which the mere citizen must 
lay aside all hope of independence. In 
life, as in politics, a democratic minority 
has no rights. It cannot set its own 
pace ; it cannot choose its own route ; 
it must follow the will of others, not 
its own desire; and it is small comfort 
to the slave, whose chains gall him, 
that the slave - driver bears the name 
of a free man. 

Liberty, in brief, is a private, not a 
public, virtue. It has naught to do 
with extended franchises or forms of 
government. The free man may thrive 
as easily under a tyranny as in a re 
public. Is it not true Liberty to live 
in accord with one s temperament or 
talent? And as the best laws cannot 
help this enterprise, so the worst cannot 
hinder it. You will discover Liberty 



158 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

in Eussia as in America, in England as 
in France, everywhere, indeed, where 
men refuse to accept the superstitions 
and doctrines of the mob. But the 
Americans are not content to possess 
the Liberty which satisfies the rest of 
the world. With characteristic optimism 
they boast the possession of a rare and 
curious quality. In Europe we strive 
after Freedom in all humility of spirit, 
as after a happy state of mind. In 
America they advertise it like a patent 
medicine. 

America s view of Patriotism is dis 
tinguished by the same ingenious ex 
aggeration as her view of Liberty. She 
has as little doubt of her Grandeur as 
of her Freedom. She is, in brief, 
" God s own country," and in her esteem 
Columbus was no mere earthly explorer ; 
he was the authentic discoverer of the 
Promised Land. Neither argument nor 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 159 

experience will ever shake the American s 
confidence in his noble destiny. On all 
other questions uncertainty is possible. 
It is not possible to discuss America s 
supremacy. In arms as in arts, the 
United States are unrivalled. They 
alone enjoy the blessings of civilisation. 
They alone have been permitted to com 
bine material with moral progress. They 
alone have solved the intricate problems 
of life and politics. They have the 
biggest houses, the best government, 
and the purest law that the world has 
ever known. Their universities surpass 
Oxford and Cambridge, Paris and Leipzig, 
in learning, as their Churches surpass the 
Churches of the old world in the proper 
understanding of theology. In brief, to 
use their own phrase, America is "It," 
the sole home of the good and great. 

Patriotism such as this, quick in 
enthusiasm, simple in faith, may 



160 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

prove, if properly handled, a national 
asset of immeasurable value. And in 
public the Americans admit no doubt. 
Though they do not hesitate to con 
demn the boodlers who prey upon 
their cities, though they deplore the 
corrupt practices of their elections, 
they count all these abuses as but 
spots upon a brilliant sun. A know 
ledge of his country s political dis 
honesty does not depress the true 
patriot. He is content to think that 
his ideals are as lofty as their realisa 
tion is remote, and that the triumph 
of graft is as nothing compared with 
a noble sentiment. The result is that 
the Americans refuse to weaken their 
national prestige by the advertised 
cannibalism which is so popular in 
England. They are for their country, 
right or wrong. They do not under 
stand the anti- patriot argument, which 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 161 

was born of the false philosophy of 
the eighteenth century, and which has 
left so evil a mark upon our political 
life. To them the phenomenon which 
we call Pro-Boerism is not easily in 
telligible. They take an open pride 
in their country and their flag, and it 
seems certain that, when they stand 
in the presence of an enemy, they 
will not weaken their national cause 
by dissension. 

This exultant Patriotism is the more 
remarkable when we reflect upon what 
it is based. The love of country, as 
understood in Europe, depends upon 
identity of race, upon community of 
history and tradition. It should not 
be difficult for those whose fathers have 
lived under the same sky, and breathed 
the same air, to sacrifice their prosperity 
or their lives to the profit of the State. 
In making such a sacrifice they are but 

L 



162 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

repaying the debt of nurture. To the 
vast majority of Americans this senti 
ment, grafted on the past, can make 
no appeal. The only link which binds 
them to America is their sudden arrival 
on alien soil. They are akin to the 
Anglo - Saxons, who first peopled the 
continent, neither in blood nor in sym 
pathy. They carry with them their 
national habits and their national 
tastes. They remain Irish, or Ger 
man, or Italian, with a difference, 
though they bear the burden of an 
other State, and assume the privileges 
of another citizenship. But there is no 
mistake about their Patriotism. Per 
haps those shout loudest who see the 
Star-spangled Banner unfurled for the 
first time, and we are confronted in 
America with the outspoken expression 
of a sentiment which cannot be paralleled 
elsewhere on the face of the globe. 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 163 

They tread the same ground, these 
vast hordes of patriots, they obey the 
same laws, that is all. Are they, then, 
moved by a spirit of gratitude, or do 
they feel the same loyalty which ani 
mates a hastily gathered football team, 
which plays not for its honour but for 
the profit of its manager? Who shall 
say ? One thing only is certain : the 
Patriotism of the cosmopolites, if it 
be doubtful in origin, is by no means 
doubtful in expression. On every 
Fourth of July the Americans are free 
to display the love of their country, 
and they use this freedom without 
restraint. From the Atlantic to the 
Pacific Coast, from Vermont to Mexico, 
the Eagle screams aloud. She screams 
from early morn to dewy eve. And 
there is nothing to silence her scream 
ing save the explosion of innumerable 
crackers, the firing of countless pistols. 



164 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

For this day the youth of America is 
given full licence to shoot his inoffen 
sive neighbours, and, if he will, to 
commit the happy despatch upon him 
self. The next morning the newspapers 
chronicle the injuries which have been 
inflicted on and by the boys of New 
York, for the most part distinguished 
by foreign names, with the cold accuracy 
bred of long habit. And while the boys 
prove their patriotism by the explosion 
of crackers, their fathers, with equal 
enthusiasm, devote themselves to the 
waving of flags. They hold flags in 
their hands, they carry them in their 
buttonholes, they stick them in their 
hats, they wear them behind their ears. 
Wherever your eye is cast, there are 
flags to dazzle it, flags large and flags 
small, an unbroken orgie of stars and 
stripes. 

It is, in fact, the Guy Fawkes Day 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 165 

of America. And who is the Guy? 
None other than George III. of blessed 
memory. For the Fourth of July has 
its duties as well as its pleasures, and 
the chief of its duties is the public 
reading of the Declaration of Inde 
pendence. In every town and hamlet 
Jefferson s burning words are proclaimed 
in the ears of enthusiastic citizens. It 
is pointed out to a motley crowd of 
newly arrived immigrants that George, 
our king, of whom they had not heard 
yesterday, was unfit to be the ruler of 
a free people. And lest the inestimable 
benefit of Jefferson s eloquence should 
be lost to one single suddenly imported 
American, his declaration is translated 
into Yiddish for the benefit of those 
to whom English is still an unknown 
tongue. In a voice trembling with emo 
tion, the orator assures the starving ill- 
clad Pole and the emaciated Bohemian 



166 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

that all men are free and equal ; and so 
fine is the air of the Great Kepublic 
that this proposition, which refutes 
itself, is firmly believed for the moment 
by the penniless and hungry. And 
when the sun sets, and darkness en 
wraps the happy land, fireworks put a 
proper finish upon the national joy, 
and the favourite set -piece represents, 
as it should, a noble - hearted Yankee 
boy putting to flight a dozen stout 
red-jackets of King George. 

Humour might suggest that the ex 
pression of Patriotism is a trifle over 
done. Perhaps also a truce might be 
made with King George, who, if he 
be permitted to look from the shades 
upon a country which his Ministers 
lost, must surely smile at this im 
mortality of resentment. But to the 
stranger, who witnesses this amazing 
carnival for the first time, two re- 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 167 

flections occur. In the first place, 
the stranger cannot but be struck by 
the perfect adaptation of Jefferson s 
rodomontade to an expected purpose. 
Although that eminent Virginian, at 
the highest point of his exaltation, did 
not look forward to the inrush of 
foreigners which is overwhelming his 
country, there is a peculiar quality in 
his words, even when translated into 
Yiddish, which inspires an inexplicable 
enthusiasm. In the second place, the 
stranger is astounded at the ingenuity 
which inspires a crowd, separated by 
wide differences of race, speech, and 
education, with a sudden sympathy for 
a country which is not its own. 

And when the last crackers are ex 
ploded, and the last flag is waved, 
what is left? An unreasoning convic 
tion, cherished, as I have said, by a 
foreign population, that America is the 



168 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

greatest country on earth. What the 
conviction lacks in sincerity it gains in 
warmth of expression, and if America 
be ever confronted by an enemy, the 
celebrations of the Fourth of July will 
be found not to have been held in vain. 
Where there is no just bond of union, 
a bond must be invented, and Patriot 
ism is the most notable invention of 
the great Eepublic. To have knit up 
all the nations of the earth in a common 
superstition is no mean achievement, 
and it is impossible to withhold a ferv 
ent admiration from the rhetoric which 
has thus attained what seemed, before 
its hour, the unattainable. 

But in this cosmopolitan orgie of 
political excitement the true - born 
American plays but a small part. He 
has put the drama on the stage, and 
is content to watch the result. If a 
leader be needed in a time of stress, 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 169 

the man of Anglo-Saxon blood will be 
ready to serve the country, which be 
longs more intimately to him than to 
those who sing its praises with a noisy 
clatter. Meanwhile he lets the poli 
ticians do their worst, and watches the 
game with a careless indifference. Even 
if he loves his country, his love does 
not persuade him to self-sacrifice. You 
may measure his patriotism by the fact 
that, if he does venture upon a political 
career, his friends know not which they 
should do praise him or condole with 
him. " Isn t it good of So-and-so ? " we 
constantly hear; "he has gone into 
politics." And with the approval is 
mixed a kindly, if contemptuous, sorrow. 
The truth is, that the young American 
of gentle birth and leisured ease hates 
to soil his hands with public affairs. 
His ambition does not drive him, as it 
drives his English cousin, into Parlia- 



170 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

ment. He prefers to pursue culture 
in the capitals of Europe, or to 
urge an automobile at a furious pace 
across the sands. And the inaction 
of the real American is America s 
heaviest misfortune. So long as politics 
are left to the amateurs of graft, so 
long will Freedom be a fiction and 
Patriotism a piece of mere lip-service. 
Wealth is not wanting ; brains are 
not wanting; energy is not wanting. 
Nothing is wanting save the inclina 
tion to snatch the control of the 
country from the hands of professional 
politicians. And until this control be 
snatched, it is idle to speak of reform. 
The Constitution of the United States 
is, we are told, a perfect Constitution. 
Its perfection is immaterial so long as 
Tammany on the one hand and the 
Trusts on the other conspire to keep 
it of no effect a mere paper thing in 



LIBERTY AND PATRIOTISM 171 

a museum. The one thing needful is 
for men with clean hands and wise 
heads to govern their States, to stand 
for Congress, to enter the Senate, to 
defend the municipalities against cor 
ruption. And when this is done, the 
Declaration of Independence may safely 
be forgotten, in the calm assurance that 
it is better to spend one day in the 
service of patriotism than to fire off a 
thousand crackers and to dazzle the air 
with stars and stripes innumerable. 



172 



THE MILLIONAIRE. 

THE millionaire, or the multi-millionaire, 
if the plainer term be inadequate to 
express his lofty condition, is the hero 
of democratic America. He has won 
the allegiance and captured the imagin 
ation of the people. His antics are 
watched with envy, and described with 
a faithful realism of which statesmen 
are thought unworthy. He is hourly 
exposed to the camera ; he marches 
through life attended by a bodyguard 
of faithful reporters. The trappings of 
his magnificent, if vulgar, existence are 
familiar to all the readers of the 
Sunday papers. His silver cars and 



THE MILLIONAIRE 173 

marble palaces are the wonder of a 
continent. If he condescend to play 
golf, it is a national event. "The 
Eichest Man on Earth drives from the 
Tee " is a legend of enthralling interest, 
not because the hero knows how to 
drive, but because he is the richest 
man on earth. Some time since a 
thoughtless headline described a poor 
infant as " The Ten - Million - Dollar 
Baby," and thus made his wealth a 
dangerous incubus before he was out 
of the nursery. Everywhere the same 
tale is told. The dollar has a power 
of evoking curiosity which neither valour 
nor lofty station may boast. Plainly, 
then, the millionaire is not made of 
common clay. Liquid gold flows in 
his veins. His eyes are made of 
precious jewels. It is doubtful whether 
he can do wrong. If by chance he does, 
it is almost certain that he cannot be 



174 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

punished. The mere sight and touch 
of him have a virtue far greater than 
that which kings of old claimed for 
themselves. He is at once the en- 
sample and the test of modern 
grandeur; and if, like a Roman em 
peror, he could be deified, his admir 
ing compatriots would send him to the 
skies, and burn perpetual incense before 
his tomb. 

Though all the millionaires of America 
are animated by the same desire, the 
collection of dollars, they regard their 
inestimable privileges with very different 
eyes. Mr Carnegie, for instance, adopts 
a sentimental view of money. He falls 
down in humble worship before the 
golden calf of his own making. He 
has pompously formulated a gospel of 
wealth. He piously believes that the 
millionaire is the greatest of God s 
creatures, the eloquent preacher of a 



THE MILLIONAIRE 175 

new evangel. If we are to believe him, 
there is a sacred virtue in the ceaseless 
accumulation of riches. It is the first 
article in his creed, that the millionaire 
who stands still is going back, from 
which it follows that to fall behind in 
the idle conflict is a cardinal sin. A 
simple man might think that when 
a manufacturer had made sufficient for 
the wants of himself and his family for 
all time he might, without a criminal 
intent, relax his efforts. The simple 
man does not understand the cult. A 
millionaire, oppressed beneath a moun 
tain of gold, would deem it a dishonour 
to himself and his colleagues if he lost 
a chance of adding to the weight and 
substance of the mountain. 

Mr Carnegie, then, is inspired not by 
the romance but by the sentiment of 
gold. He cannot speak of the enor 
mous benefits conferred upon the human 



176 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

race by the vast inequalities of wealth 
and poverty without a tear. " Million 
aires," he says, " can only grow amid 
general prosperity." In other words, if 
there be not millions in the country the 
millionaire cannot put his hand upon 
them. That is obvious enough. His 
second text cannot be so easily accepted. 
"Their wealth is not made," he asserts 
dogmatically, " at the expense of their 
countrymen." At whose expense then 
is it made ? Does Mr Carnegie vouch 
for the probity of all his colleagues ? 
Does he cover with the aegis of his 
gospel the magnates of the Standard 
Oil Company, and that happy firm 
which, with no other advantage than 
a service of cars, levies toll upon the 
fruit-growers of America? Was the 
Steel Combine established without in 
flicting hardships upon less wealthy 
rivals? An answer to these simple 



THE MILLIONAIRE 177 

questions should be given before Mr 
Carnegie s second text be inscribed 
upon the walls of our churches. It is 
not enough to say with Mr Carnegie 
that trusts obey " the law of aggrega 
tion." You need not be a Socialist 
to withhold your approval from these 
dollar-making machines, until you know 
that they were not established upon ruin 
and plunder. Even if the millionaire 
be the self - denying saint of modern 
times, it is still possible to pay too 
high a price for his sanctity and 
sacrifice. 

It is the favourite boast of the senti 
mental millionaire that he holds his 
wealth in trust for humanity, in other 
words, that he has been chosen by an 
all-wise Providence to be the universal 
almsgiver of mankind. The arrogance 
of this boast is unsurpassable. To be 
rich is within the compass of any man 
M 



178 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

gifted or cursed with an acquisitive 
temperament. No one may give to 
another save in humbleness of spirit. 
And there is not a millionaire in 
America who does not think that he 
is fit to perform a delicate duty which 
has eluded the wise of all ages. In 
this matter Mr Carnegie is by far the 
worst offender. He pretends to take 
his "mission" very seriously. He does 
not tell us who confided the trust of 
philanthropy to him, but he is very 
sure that he has been singled out 
for special service. It is his modest 
pleasure to suggest a comparison with 
William Pitt. " He lived without osten 
tation and he died poor." These are 
the words which Mr Carnegie quotes 
with the greatest relish. How or where 
Mr Carnegie lives is his own affair ; 
and even if he die poor, he should 
remember that he has devoted his life, 



THE MILLIONAIRE 179 

not to the service of his country, but 
to the amassing of millions which he 
cannot spend. It is obvious, therefore, 
that the noble words which Canning 
dedicated to the memory of Pitt can 
have no meaning for him, and he would 
be wisely guided if he left the names 
of patriots out of the argument. 

Mr Carnegie s choice of an epitaph is 
easily explained. He is wont to assert, 
without warrant, that " a man who dies 
rich dies disgraced." He does not tell 
us how the rich man shall escape dis 
grace. Not even the master of millions, 
great and good as he is reputed to be, 
knows when his hour comes. There is 
a foresight which even money cannot 
buy. Death visits the golden palace of 
the rich and the hovel of the poor with 
equal and unexpected foot. The fact 
that Mr Carnegie is still distributing 
libraries with both hands seems to 



180 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

suggest that, had he been overtaken 
during the last twenty years, he would 
not have realised his ideal. There is 
but one method by which a rich man 
may die poor, and that is by dis 
encumbering himself of his wealth the 
very day that it is acquired. And he 
who is not prepared for this sacrifice 
does but waste his breath in celebrating 
the honour of a pauper s grave. 

As there is no merit in living rich, 
so there is no virtue in dying poor. 
That a millionaire should desert his 
money-bags at his death is not a re 
proach to him if they be honestly filled. 
He has small chance of emptying them 
while he is on the earth. But Mr Car 
negie has a reason for his aphorism. He 
aspires to be a philosopher as well as 
a millionaire, and he has decided that 
a posthumous bequest is of no value, 
moral or material. " Men who leave 



THE MILLIONAIRE 181 

vast sums," says he, "may fairly be 
thought men who would not have left 
it at all had they been able to take it 
with them." On such a question as 
this the authority of Mr Carnegie is not 
absolute. Let the cobbler stick to his 
last. The millionaire, no doubt, is more 
familiar with account -books than with 
the lessons of history ; and the record 
of a thousand pious benefactors proves 
the worth of wise legacies. Nor, indeed, 
need we travel beyond our own genera 
tion to find a splendid example of wealth 
honourably bestowed. The will of Cecil 
Ehodes remains a tribute to the gener 
osity and to the imagination of a great 
man, and is enough of itself to brush 
aside the quibbles of Mr Carnegie. 

The sentiment of "doing good" and 
of controlling great wealth leads rapidly 
to megalomania, and Mr Carnegie cannot 
conceal the pride of omniscience. He 



182 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

seems to think that his money-bags give 
him the right to express a definite 
opinion upon all things. He has dis 
tributed so many books, that perhaps 
he believes himself master of their con 
tents. Though he has not devoted 
himself to politics or literature, he is 
always prepared to advise those who 
give themselves to these difficult arts. 
He has discovered that Greek and Latin 
are of no more practical use than 
Choctaw which is perfectly true, if 
the useless money-bag be our summum 
bonum. With the indisputable authority 
of a man who keeps a large balance at 
his bank, he once dismissed the wars 
of the Greeks as "petty and insignifi 
cant skirmishes between savages." Poor 
Greeks ! They did not pay their bills 
in dollars or buy their steel at Pittsburg. 
The chief article in his political creed 
is that monarchy is a crime. In his 



THE MILLIONAIRE 183 

opinion, it is a degradation to kiss the 
King s hand. " The first man who feels 
as he ought to feel," says Mr Carnegie, 
"will either smile when the hand is 
extended at the suggestion that he 
could so demean himself, and give it 
a good hearty shake, or knock his Eoyal 
Highness down." In the same spirit 
of sturdy " independence " he urged the 
United States some years since to tax 
the products of Canada, because she 
" owes allegiance to a foreign power 
founded upon monarchical institutions." 
" I should use the rod," says the money 
bag, "not in anger, but in love; but 
I should use it." Fortunately, it is not 
his to use ; and his opinions are only 
memorable, since the country which he 
insults with his words is insulted also 
by his gifts. We may make too great 
a sacrifice in self-esteem, even for the 
boon of free libraries. 



184 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

And with a hatred of monarchy Mr 
Carnegie combines a childlike faith in 
the political power of money. Though 
his faith by this should be rudely 
shaken, he clings to it as best he may. 
Time was when he wished to buy the 
Philippines, and present them, a free 
gift, to somebody or other. Now he 
thinks that he may purchase the peace 
of the world for a round sum, and sees 
not the absurdity of his offer. Even 
his poor attempt to bribe the English- 
speaking peoples to forget their spelling- 
books was a happy failure, and he still 
cherishes an illusion of omnipotence. 
At the opening of his Institute at 
Pittsburg he was bold enough to declare 
that his name would be known to future 
ages "like the name of Harvard." He 
might remember that Harvard gave not 
of his abundance. He bequeathed for 
the use of scholars a scholar s books and 



THE MILLIONAIRE 185 

a scholar s slender savings, and he won 
a gracious immortality. Mr Carnegie, 
in endowing education, is endowing that 
which he has publicly condemned. De 
siring to teach the youth of his country 
how to become as wealthy as himself, he 
has poured contempt upon learning. He 
has declared that "the college - made " 
man had " little chance against the boy 
who swept the office." He is to be found, 
this victim of an intellectual ambition, 
in the salaried class, from which the 
aspiring millionaire is bidden to escape 
as quickly as possible by the customary 
methods of bluff and bounce. Why, 
then, if Mr Carnegie thinks so ill of 
colleges and universities does he inflict 
his millions upon them ? He has known 
"few young men intended for business 
who were not injured by a collegiate 
education." And yet he has done his 
best to drive all the youth of Scotland 



186 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

within the gates of the despised univer 
sities, and he has forced upon his own 
Pittsburg the gift of "free education in 
art and literature." Is it cynicism, or 
vain inconsequence ? Cynicism, prob 
ably. The man who, having devoted 
his whole career to the accumulation of 
superfluous wealth, yet sings a paean in 
praise of poverty, is capable of every 
thing. " Abolish luxury, if you please," 
thus he rhapsodises, "but leave us 
the soil upon which alone the virtues 
and all that is precious in human char 
acter grow, poverty, honest poverty ! " 
Has he shed the virtues, I wonder ; or 
is he a peculiarly sanctified vessel, which 
can hold the poison of wealth without 
injury ? 

Of all millionaires, Mr Carnegie is 
at once the least picturesque and the 
most dangerous. He is the least 
picturesque, because he harbours in 



THE MILLIONAIRE 187 

his heart the middle - class ambition 
of philanthropy. He would undertake 
a task for which he is manifestly 
unfit, in the spirit of provincial culture. 
For the same reason he is the most 
dangerous. He is not content to squan 
der his immense wealth in race-horses 
and champagne. He employs it to 
interfere with the lives of others. He 
confers benefits with a ready hand 
which are benefits only when they 
are acquired by conquest. Of a very 
different kind is Mr Thomas W. Lawson. 
He, too, is a millionaire. He, too, 
has about him all the appurtenances 
of wealth. His fur-coats are mythical. 
He once paid 30,000 dollars for a pink. 
"He owns a palace in Boston," says 
his panegyrist, " filled with works of 
art; he has a six-hundred acre farm 
in Cape Cod, with seven miles of fences ; 
three hundred horses, each one of whom 



188 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

he can call by name ; a hundred and 
fifty dogs ; and a building for training 
his animals larger than Madison Square 
Garden." These eloquent lines will 
prove to you more clearly than pages 
of argument the native heroism of the 
man. He was scarce out of his cradle 
when he began to amass vast sums of 
money, and he is now, after many 
years of adventure, a king upon Wall 
Street. He represents the melodrama 
of wealth. He seems to live in an 
atmosphere of mysterious disguises, 
secret letters, and masked faces. His 
famous contest with Mr H. H. Eogers, 
"the wonderful Kogers, the master 
among pirates, whom you have to 
salute even when he has the point 
of his cutlass at the small of your 
back and you re walking the plank 
at his order/ was conducted, on Mr 
Lawson s part, in the spirited style 



THE MILLIONAIRE 189 

of the old Adelphi. "Mr Rogers 
eyes snapped just once," we are told, 
on a famous occasion ; but Mr Lawson 
was not intimidated. " I held myself 
together," he says proudly, " with closed 
hands and clinched teeth." Indeed, 
these two warriors have never met with 
out much snapping of eyes and closing 
of hands and clinching of teeth. Why 
they snapped and closed and clinched 
is uncertain. To follow their operations 
is impossible for an outsider, but Mr 
Lawson always succeeds in convincing 
you that on the pretence of money-mak 
ing he is attacking some lofty enterprise. 
He would persuade you that he is a 
knight-errant of purity. " Tremendous 
issues " are always at stake. The 
heroes of Wall Street are engaged in 
never - ending " battles." They are 
" fighting " for causes, the splendour 
of which is not dimmed in Mr 



190 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Lawson s lurid prose. They have 
Americanised the language of ancient 
chivalry, until it fits the operations 
of the modern market. They talk 
of honour and of " taking each other s 
word," as though they had never 
stooped to dollars in their lives. 
But of one thing you may be sure 
they are always " on hand when a 
new melon is cut and the juice runs 
out." 

Like the knights of old, they toil 
not neither do they spin. They 
make nothing, they produce nothing, 
they invent nothing. They merely 
gamble with the savings of others, 
and find the business infinitely profit 
able. Yet they, too, must cultivate 
the language of sentiment. Though the 
world is spared the incubus of their 
philanthropy, they must pretend, in 
phrase at least, that they are doing 



THE MILLIONAIRE 191 

good, and their satisfaction proves 
that nothing so swiftly and tranquilly 
lulls the conscience to sleep as the 
dollar. But, as the actor of melo 
drama falls far below the finished 
tragedian, the heroes of the Street, 
typified by Mr Lawson, are mere 
bunglers compared with the greatest 
millionaire on earth John D. Eocke- 
feller. We would no more give him 
the poor title of "Mr" than we 
would give it to Shakespeare. Even 
" Eockefeller " seems too formal for 
his grandeur. Plain " John D." is 
best suited to express the admira 
tion of his worshippers, the general 
fame that shines like a halo about 
his head. He is Plutus in human 
guise; he is Wealth itself, essential 
and concrete. A sublime unselfishness 
has marked his career. He is a true 
artist, who pursues his art for its own 



192 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

sake. Money has given him nothing. 
He asks nothing of her. Yet he woos 
her with the same devotion which 
a lover shows to his mistress. Like 
other great men, Eockefeller has con 
centrated all his thoughts, all his 
energies, upon the single object of his 
desire. He has not chattered of things 
which he does not understand, like 
Mr Carnegie. He has resolutely re 
frained from Mr Lawson s melodramatic 
exaggeration. Money has been the 
god of his idolatry, " Dea Moneta, 
Queen Money, to whom he daily offers 
sacrifice, which steers his heart, hands, 
affections all." 

His silence and his concentration give 
him a picturesqueness which his rivals 
lack. He stands apart from the human 
race in a chill and solitary grandeur. 
He seeks advertisement as little as he 
hankers after pleasure. The Sunday- 



THE MILLIONAIRE 193 

school is his dissipation. A suburban 
villa is his palace. He seldom speaks 
to the world, and when he breaks his 
habit of reticence it is to utter an 
aphorism, perfect in concision and cyni 
cism. "Avoid all honorary posts that 
cost time" this was one of his earliest 
counsels to the young. "Pay a profit 
to nobody " is perhaps his favourite 
maxim. "Nothing is too small, for 
small things grow," is another principle 
which he formulated at the outset of 
his career. " I have ways of making 
money that you know nothing of," he 
once told a colleague, and no one will 
doubt the truth of his assertion. It is 
said that when he was scarce out of 
his teens he would murmur, with the 
hope of almost realised ambition, " I 
am bound to be rich, bound to be 
rich, bound to be rich." He imposed 
upon all those who served him the 
N 



194 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

imperative duty of secrecy. He was 
unwilling that any one should know the 
policy of the Trust. "Congress and the 
State legislature are after us," he once 
said. "You may be subpoenaed. If 
you know nothing, you can tell nothing. 
If you know about the business, you 
might tell something which would ruin 
us." The mere presence of a stranger 
has always been distasteful to him. 
The custom of espionage has made him 
suspect that others are as watchful as 
himself. He has been described errone 
ously as a master of complicated villainy. 
He is, for evil or for good, the most 
single-minded man alive. He looks for 
a profit in all things. Even his devo 
tion to the Sunday-school is of a piece 
with the rest. "Put something in," says 
he, speaking of the work, " and accord 
ing as you put something in, the greater 
will be your dividends of salvation." 



THE MILLIONAIRE 195 

His triumphant capture of the oil 
trade is a twice - told tale. All the 
world knows how he crushed his rivals 
by excluding their wares from the rail 
roads, which gave him rebates, and 
then purchased for a song their de 
preciated properties. At every point 
he won the battle. He laid stealthy 
hands upon the pipe-lines, designed to 
thwart his monopoly, as he had previ 
ously laid hands upon the railway lines. 
He discovered no new processes, he in 
vented no new methods of transport. 
But he made the enterprise of others 
his own. The small refiner went the 
way of the small producer, and the 
energy of those who carried oil over 
the mountains helped to fill Rocke 
feller s pocket. The man himself spared 
no one who stood between him and the 
realisation of his dream. Friends and 
enemies fell down before him. He 



196 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

ruined the widow and orphan with the 
same quiet cheerfulness wherewith he 
defeated the competitors who had a 
better chance to fight their own battle. 
The Government was, and is, power 
less to stay his advance. It has 
instituted prosecutions. It has passed 
laws directed at the Standard Oil Com 
pany. And all is of no avail. Before 
cross-examining counsel, in the face of 
the court, Rockefeller maintains an im 
penetrable silence. He admits nothing. 
He confesses nothing. " We do not 
talk much," he murmurs sardonically ; 
" we saw wood." A year ago it was 
rumoured that he would be arrested 
when he returned to America from 
Europe. He is still at large. The 
body of a multi-millionaire is sacred. 

He is master of the world s oil, and 
of much else beside. Having won the 



THE MILLIONAIRE 197 

control of one market, he makes his 
imperial hand felt in many another. 
His boast that "money talks" is 
abundantly justified. The power of 
money in making money is the 
only secret that the millionaires of 
America discover for themselves. The 
man who makes a vast fortune by the 
invention or manufacture of something 
which the people thinks it wants, may 
easily take a pride in the fruit of his 
originality. The captains of American 
industry can seldom boast this cause 
of satisfaction. It is theirs to exploit, 
not to create. The great day in Mr 
Carnegie s life was that on which "the 
mysterious golden visitor" came to 
him, as a dividend from another s toil. 
Mr Eockefeller remembers with the 
greatest pleasure the lesson which he 
learned as a boy, "that he could get 



198 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

as much interest for $50, loaned at 
seven per cent, as he could earn by 
digging potatoes ten days." The lesson 
of Shylock is not profound, but its 
mastery saves a world of trouble. Com 
bined with a light load of scruples, it 
will fill the largest coffers; and it has 
been sufficient to carry the millionaires 
of America to the highest pinnacle of 
fame. 

In other words, the sole test of their 
success is not their achievement, but 
their money - bags. And when, with 
cynical egoism, they have collected their 
unnumbered dollars, what do they do 
with them ? What pleasures, what 
privileges, does their wealth procure ? 
It is their fond delusion that it brings 
them power. What power? To make 
more money and to defy the laws. In 
England a wealthy man aspires to found 
a family, to play his part upon the 



THE MILLIONAIRE 199 

stage of politics, to serve his country 
as best he may, and to prepare his 
sons for a like honourable service. The 
American millionaire does not share this 
ambition. Like Mr Kockefeller, he 
avoids " honorary posts." If he were 
foolish enough to accept them, he would 
not be loyal to the single desire of 
adding to his store. Perhaps we may 
best express his triumph in terms of 
champagne and oysters, of marble halls 
and hastily gathered collections. But 
even here the satisfaction is small. The 
capacity of the human throat is limited, 
and collections, made by another and 
partially understood, pall more rapidly 
than orchid-houses and racing- stables. 

This, then, is the tragedy of the 
American multi-millionaires. They are 
doomed to carry about with them a 
huge load of gold which they cannot 
disperse. They are no wiser than the 



200 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

savages, who hide and hoard their little 
heaps of cowrie-shells. They might as 
well have filled their treasuries with 
flint -stones or scraps of iron. They 
muster their wealth merely to become 
its slave. They are rich not because 
they possess imagination, but because 
they lack it. Their bank - books are 
the index of their folly. They waste 
their years in a vain pursuit, which 
they cannot resist. They exclude from 
their lives all that makes life worth 
living, that they may acquire innumer 
able specimens of a precious metal. 
Gold is their end, not the gratification 
it may bring. Mr Kockefeller will go 
out of the world as limited in intelli 
gence, as uninstructed in mind, as he 
was when he entered it. The lessons 
of history and literature are lost upon 
him. The joys for which wise men 
strive have never been his. He is the 



THE MILLIONAIRE 201 

richest man on earth, and his position 
and influence are the heaviest indict 
ment of wealth that can be made. 
His power begins and ends at the 
curbstone of Wall Street. His pain 
fully gathered millions he must leave 
behind. Even the simple solace of a 
quiet conscience is denied to the most 
of his class. Is there one of them 
who is not haunted in hours of de 
pression by the memory of bloody 
strikes, of honest men squeezed out, 
of rival works shut down ? 

In a kind of dread they turn to 
philanthropy. They fling from their 
chariots bundles of bank-notes to ap 
pease the wolves of justice. Univer 
sities grow ignobly rich upon their 
hush - money. They were accurately 
described three centuries ago by Kobert 
Burton as "gouty benefactors, who, 
when by fraud and rapine they have 



202 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

extorted all their lives, oppressed whole 
provinces, societies, &c., give something 
to pious uses, build a satisfactory alms- 
house, school, or bridge, &c., at their 
last end, or before perhaps, which is 
no otherwise than to steal a goose and 
stick down a feather, rob a thousand 
to relieve ten." If America were wise 
she would not accept even the feather 
without the closest scrutiny. Money 
never loses the scent of its origin, and 
when the very rich explain how much 
they ought to give to their fellows, 
they should carry back their inquiry a 
stage farther. They should tell us why 
they took so much, why they suppressed 
the small factory, why they made 
bargains with railways to the detri 
ment of others, why they used their 
wealth as an instrument of oppression. 
If their explanation be not sufficient, 



THE MILLIONAIRE 203 

they should not be permitted to un 
load their gold upon a stricken country ; 
they should not buy a cheap reputa 
tion for generosity with money that 
is not their own. 

It may be said that the millionaire 
decrees the punishment for his own 
crimes. That is true enough, but the 
esteem in which America holds him 
inflicts a wrong upon the whole com 
munity. Where Rockefeller is a hero, 
a false standard of morals is set up. 
For many years he has preached a 
practical sermon upon the text, "The 
end justifies the means." How great 
are the means ! How small the end ! 
He has defended his harshest dealings 
on the ground that " it is business," 
and so doing has thrown a slur upon 
the commerce of his country. And, 
worse than this, the wonder and curi- 



204 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

osity which cling about the dollar have 
created a new measure of life and char 
acter. A man is judged not by his 
attainments, his courage, his energy, 
but by his wealth. It is a simple test, 
and easily applied. It is also the 
poorest encouragement for the civic 
virtues. In England we help to correct 
the vulgarity of wealth by the distri 
bution of titles, and a better aid than 
this could not be devised. Though the 
champions of democracy, who believe 
in equality of names as devoutly as 
in inequality of wealth, deem this 
old-fashioned artifice a shameful crime, 
it is not without its uses. It suggests 
that public service is worth a higher 
distinction than a mass of money. 
And, titles apart, it is happily not in 
accord with the traditions of our life 
to regard the rich man and the poor 



THE MILLIONAIRE 205 

man as beings of a different clay and 
a different destiny. We may still echo 
without hypocrisy the words of Ben 
Jonson, " Money never made any man 
rich, but his mind." 



206 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE. 

To the English traveller in America the 
language which he hears spoken about 
him is at once a puzzle and a surprise. 
It is his own, yet not his own. It 
seems to him a caricature of English, 
a phantom speech, ghostly but familiar, 
such as he might hear in a land of 
dreams. He recognises its broad linea 
ments ; its lesser details evade, or con 
fuse, him. He acknowledges that the 
two tongues have a common basis. 
Their grammatical framework is iden 
tical. The small change of language 
the adverbs and prepositions, though 
sometimes strangely used in America, 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 207 

are not strange to an English ear. 
And there the precise resemblance 
ends. Accent, idiom, vocabulary give 
a new turn to the ancient speech. The 
traveller feels as though he were con 
fronted with an old friend, tricked out 
in an odd suit of clothes, and master of 
a new pose and unaccustomed gesture. 

The Americans are commonly reputed 
to speak through their nose. A more 
intimate acquaintance with their manner 
belies this reputation. It is rather a 
drawl that afflicts the ear than a nasal 
twang. You notice in every sentence a 
curious shifting of emphasis. America, 
with the true instinct of democracy, is 
determined to give all parts of speech 
an equal chance. The modest pronoun 
is not to be outdone by the blustering 
substantive or the self - asserting verb. 
And so it is that the native American 
hangs upon the little words : he does 



208 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

not clip and slur " the smaller parts of 
speech," and what his tongue loses in 
colour it gains in distinctness. 

If the American continent had been 
colonised by Englishmen before the in 
vention of printing, we might have 
watched the growth of another Anglo- 
Saxon tongue, separate and character 
istic. American might have wandered 
as far from English as French or Spanish 
has wandered from Latin. It might 
have invented fresh inflections, and 
shaped its own syntax. But the black 
art of Gutenberg had hindered the free 
development of speech before John 
Smith set foot in Virginia, and the 
easy interchange of books, newspapers, 
and other merchandise ensured a certain 
uniformity. And so it was that the 
Americans, having accepted a ready- 
made system of grammar, were forced 
to express their fancy in an energetic 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 209 

and a multi-coloured vocabulary. Nor 
do they attempt to belittle their debt. 
Eather they claim in English an ex 
clusive privilege. Those whose pleasure 
it is to call America " God s own 
country" tell us with a bluff heartiness 
that they are the sole inheritors of the 
speech which Chaucer and Shakespeare 
adorned. It is their favourite boast that 
they have preserved the old language 
from extinction. They expend a vast 
deal of ingenuity in the fruitless attempt 
to prove that even their dialect has its 
roots deep down in the soil of classical 
English. And when their proofs are 
demanded they are indeed a sorry few. 
A vast edifice of mistaken pride has 
been established upon the insecure basis 
of three words fall, gotten, and bully. 
These once were familiar English, and 
they are English no more. The word 
"fall," "the fall of the leaf," which 
o 



210 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

beautifully echoes the thought of spring, 
survives only in our provinces. It 
makes but a furtive and infrequent 
appearance in our literature. Chaucer 
and Shakespeare know it not. It is 
found in "The Nymph s Reply to the 
Shepherd": 

" A honey tongue, a heart of gall 
Is fancy s Spring, but Sorrow s Fall." 

Johnson cites but one illustration of its 
use from Dryden : 

" What crowds of patients the town-doctor kills, 
Or how last fall he raised the weekly hills." 

On the other side of the Atlantic it is 
universally heard and written. There the 
word " autumn " is almost unknown ; and 
though there is a dignity in the Latin 
word ennobled by our orators and poets, 
there is no one with a sense of style who 
will not applaud the choice of America. 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 211 

But if she may take a lawful pride in 
" fall," America need not boast the use of 
" gotten." The termination, which sug 
gests either wilful archaism or useless 
slang, adds nothing of sense or sound 
to the word. It is like a piece of dead 
wood in a tree, and is better lopped off. 
Nor does the use of " bully " prove a 
wholesome respect for the past. It is 
true that our Elizabethans used this 
adjective in the sense of great or noble. 
" Come," writes Ben Jonson in " The 
Poetaster," " I love bully Horace." 1 But 
in England the word was never of uni 
versal application, and was sternly re 
served for poets, kings, and heroes. In 
modern America there is nothing that 

1 Innumerable examples might be culled from the 
literature of the seventeenth century. One other 
will suffice here, taken from Dekker s "Shoemaker s 
Holiday " : " Yet I ll shave it off," says the shoemaker, 
of his beard, " and stuff a tennis-ball with it, to please 
my bully king." 



212 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

may not be " bully " if it meet with 
approval. " A bully place," " a bully 
boat," " a bully blaze," these show 
how far the word has departed from 
its origin. Nor, indeed, does it come 
down from English in an unbroken 
line. Overlooked for centuries, it was 
revived (or invented) in America some 
fifty years ago, and it is not to Dekker 
and Ben Jonson that we must look for 
palliation of its misuse. 

Words have their fates. By a caprice 
of fortune one is taken, another is left. 
This is restricted to a narrow use ; that 
wanders free over the plain of meaning. 
And thus we may explain many of the 
variations of English and of American 
speech. A simple word crosses the ocean 
and takes new tasks upon itself. The 
word " parlour," for instance, is dying 
in our midst, while " parlor " gains a 
fresh vigour from an increasing and 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 213 

illegitimate employment. Originally a 
room in a religious house, a parlour (or 
parloir) became a place of reception or 
entertainment. Two centuries ago an air 
of elegance hung about it. It suggested 
spinnets and powdered wigs. And then, 
as fashion turned to commonness, the 
parlour grew stuffy with disuse, until it 
is to-day the room reserved for a vain 
display, consecrated to wax-flowers and 
framed photographs, hermetically sealed 
save when the voice of gentility bids its 
furtive door be opened. The American 
"parlor" resembles the "parlour" of the 
eighteenth century as little as the 
"parlour" of the Victorian age. It 
is busy, public, and multifarious. It 
means so many things that at last it 
carries no other meaning than that of 
a false elegance. It is in a dentist s 
parlor that the American s teeth are 
gilded ; he is shaved in a tonsorial 



214 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

parlor ; he travels in a parlor-car ; and 
Miss Maudie s parlor proves how far an 
ancient and respected word may wander 
from its origin. One example, of many, 
will illustrate the accidents which beset 
the life of words. No examples will 
prove the plain absurdity which has 
flattered the vanity of some American 
critics that their language has faithfully 
adhered to the tradition of English 
speech. 

The vocabulary of America, like the 
country itself, is a strange medley. 
Some words it has assimilated into 
itself; others it holds, as it were, by 
a temporary loan. And in its choice, 
or invention, it follows two divergent, 
even opposite, paths. On the one hand, 
it pursues and gathers to itself barbarous 
Latinisms ; on the other, it is eager in 
its quest after a coarse and living slang. 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 215 

That a country which makes a constant 
boast of its practical intelligence should 
delight in long, flat, cumbrous collections 
of syllables, such as "locate," " operate," 
" antagonize," " transportation," " com 
mutation," and " proposition," is an 
irony of civilisation. These words, if 
words they may be called, are hideous 
to the eye, offensive to the ear, and 
inexpressive to the mind. They are 
the base coins of language. They bear 
upon their face no decent superscription. 
They are put upon the street, fresh from 
some smasher s den, and not even the 
newspapers, contemptuous as they are 
of style, have reason to be proud of 
them. Nor is there any clear link 
between them and the meaning thrust 
upon them. Why should the poor 
holder of a season-ticket have the grim 
word " commutation" hung round his 



216 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

neck? Why should the simple business 
of going from one place to another be 
labelled "transportation"? And these 
words are apt and lucid compared with 
" proposition." Now " proposition" is 
America s maid -of -all -work. It means 
everything or nothing. It may be 
masculine, feminine, neuter he, she, 
it. It is tough or firm, cold or warm, 
according to circumstances. But it has 
no more sense than an expletive, and 
its popularity is a clear proof of an 
idle imagination. 

And while the American language is 
collecting those dried and shrivelled 
specimens of verbiage, it does not dis 
dain the many-coloured flowers of lively 
speech. In other words, it gives as 
ready a welcome to the last experiment 
in Slang as to its false and pompous 
Latinisms. Nor is the welcome given 
in vain. Never before in the world s 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 217 

history has Slang flourished as it has 
flourished in America. And its triumph 
is not surprising. It is more than any 
artifice of speech the mark of a various 
and changing people. America has a 
natural love of metaphor and imagery ; 
its pride delights in the mysteries of a 
technical vocabulary ; it is happiest when 
it can fence itself about by the privilege 
of an exclusive and obscure tongue. 
And what is Slang but metaphor? 
There is no class, no cult, no trade, 
no sport which will not provide some 
strange words or images to the general 
stock of language, and America s vari 
ety has been a quick encouragement to 
the growth of Slang. She levies con 
tributions upon every batch of im 
migrants. The old world has thus 
come to the aid of the new. Spanish, 
Chinese, German, and Yiddish have all 
paid their toll. The aboriginal speech 



218 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

of the Indians, and its debased lingo, 
Chinook, have given freely of their 
wealth. And not only many tongues 
but many employments have enhanced 
the picturesqueness of American Slang. 
America has not lost touch with her 
beginnings. The spirit of adventure 
is still strong within her. There is no 
country within whose borders so many 
lives are led. The pioneer still jostles 
the millionaire. The backwoods are not 
far distant from Wall Street. The 
farmers of Ohio, the cowboys of Texas, 
the miners of Nevada, owe allegiance to 
the same Government, and shape the 
same speech to their own purpose. 
Every State is a separate country, and 
cultivates a separate dialect. Then come 
baseball, poker, and the racecourse, each 
with its own metaphors to swell the 
hoard. And the result is a language 
of the street and camp, brilliant in 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 219 

colour, multiform in character, which 
has not a rival in the history of 
speech. 

There remains the Cant of the grafters 
and guns, the coves that work upon the 
cross in the great cities. In England, 
as in France, this strange gibberish is 
the oldest and richest form of Slang. 
Whence it came is still a puzzle of the 
philologists. Harrison, in his Descrip 
tion of England (1577), with a dog 
matism which is not justified, sets a 
precise date upon its invention. 

In counterfeiting the Egyptian rogues [says 
he of the vagabonds who then infested Eng 
land], they have devised a language among 
themselves which they name Canting, but 
others Pedlars French, a speech compact 
thirty years since of English, and a great 
number of odd words of their own devising, 
without all order or reason: and yet such is 
it that none but themselves are able to under 
stand. The first deviser thereof was hanged 



220 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

by the neck, a just reward, no doubt, for 
his deserts, and a common end to all of that 
profession. 

The lingo, called indifferently Thieves 
Latin or St Giles s Greek, was assuredly 
not the invention of one brain. The 
work of many, it supplied an imperious 
need. It was at once an expression of 
pride and a shield of defence. Those 
who understood it proved by its use 
that they belonged to a class apart ; 
and, being unintelligible to the respect 
able majority, they could communi 
cate with one another secretly, as they 
hoped, and without fear of detection. 
Throughout the seventeenth and eigh 
teenth centuries the flash tongue grew 
and was changed ; it crossed the Atlantic 
with the early settlers, and it has left 
its marks upon the dialect of the Amer 
ican underworld. But its influence upon 
the common Slang has been light in 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 221 

America, as in England. It is as severely 
technical as the language of science, and 
is familiar chiefly to policemen, tramps, 
and informers. As Slang leaves the 
tavern and the street - corner, to invade 
the theatre, the office, and even the 
drawing - room, those who aim at a 
variety of speech need owe no debt to 
the Cant of the vagabonds, and it is 
not surprising that to-day the vulgar 
tongue, in America as in England, 
borrows more from " soldiers on the 
long march, seamen at the capstan, 
and ladies disposing of fish," than from 
the common cursetors and cony-catchers 
who once dominated it. 

The use of Slang proves at once the 
wealth and poverty of a language. It 
proves its wealth when it reflects a 
living, moving image. It proves its 
poverty when it is nothing more than 
the vain echo of a familiar catchword. 



222 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

At its best it is an ornament of speech; 
at its worst it is a labour-saving device. 
And it is for this reason that the vulgar 
American delights in the baser kind of 
Slang: it seems to ensure him an easy 
effect. He must be picturesque at all 
costs. Sometimes he reaches the goal 
of his ambition by a purposed extrava 
gance. What can be more foolish than 
the description which follows of a man 
equal to the most difficult occasion : "He 
can light his cigar, when the battle is 
on, with the friction of a passing cannon- 
ball." In yet worse taste is another 
piece of fustian, invented by the same 
author: "When a twister off the hills 
gets ready to do business in a 20-knot 
sou wester it sends no messenger boys 
ahead to distribute its itinerary hand 
bills." There is no fault of style which 
these few lines do not display. They 
combine, with a singular success, com- 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 223 

monness and pomp. The epic poets of 
old were wont to illustrate the life 
of man by the phenomena of nature. 
The vulgar American reverses the pro 
cess he illustrates nature from the 
pavement. 

Exaggeration, then, is one easy arti 
fice of effect. Another is the constant 
repetition of certain words and phrases 
which have lost their meaning by de 
trition and are known to all. Not to 
be disappointed is sometimes as pleasant 
as to be surprised. A catchword passed 
from one to another is often a signal 
of sympathy, and many a man has 
been taken for a wit merely because 
his tinkling brain has given back the 
echo which was expected. In stereo 
typed phrases, in ready-made sentences, 
in the small change of meaningless 
words, the American language is pecu 
liarly rich. " To cut ice," " to get 



224 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

next to," "straight goods," 1 these and 
similar expressions, of no obvious merit 
in themselves, long ago lost their fresh 
ness, and are not likely to assume a dig 
nity with age. But they save trouble ; 
they establish an understanding between 
him who speaks and him who hears ; 
and when they are thrown into a dis 
course they serve the purpose of gestures. 
To exclaim " I should smile " or "I 
should cough" is not of much help in 
an argument, but such interjections as 
these imply an appreciation not merely 
of slang but of your interlocutor. 

1 To the Englishman who knows them not, the fol 
lowing quotations will explain their significance : 

" Tain t what ye ain t or what ye don t do that cuts 
ice with me." 

"Well, invested capital has got to protect itself 
when the law won t do it. Ain t them straight 
goods 1 " 

" Boston don t want Bishop Potter to come up here 
an tell her t she ain t next to the latest curves in 
goodness. Hully gee, no 1 " 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 225 

Slang is better heard than read. The 
child of the street or the hedgerow, it 
assumes in print a grave air which does 
not belong to it, or, worse still, it is 
charged with the vice or the vaga 
bondage which it suggests. And so it is 
that Slang words have a life as closely 
packed with adventure as is the life of 
those who use them with the quickest 
understanding. To ask what becomes 
of last year s Slang is as rash as to 
speculate on the fate of last year s 
literature. Many specimens die in the 
gutter, where they were born, after 
living a precarious life in the mouths 
of men. Others are gathered into dic 
tionaries, and survive to become the 
sport of philologists. For the worst 
of their kind special lexicons are de 
signed, which, like prisons and work 
houses, admit only the disreputable, 
as though Victor Hugo s definition 
p 



226 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

" L argot, c est le verbe devenu 
were amply justified. The journals, 
too, which take their material where 
they find it, give to many specimens 
a life as long as their own. It is 
scarcely possible, for instance, to pick 
up an American newspaper that does 
not turn the word cinch to some 
strange purpose. The form and origin 
of the word are worthy a better 
fate. It passed from Spain into the 
Western States, and was the name 
given to saddle - girths of leather or 
woven horse-hair. It suggests Mexican 
horsemanship and the open prairie. 
The explanation given in the Century 
Dictionary will make clear its meaning 
to the untravelled : " The two ends of 
the tough cordage, which constitute 
the cinch, terminate in long narrow 
strips of leather called latigos, which 
connect the cinches with the saddle, 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 227 

and are run through an iron ring, called 
the larigo ring, and then tied by a 
series of complicated turns and knots, 
known only to the craft." In the West 
the word is still used in its natural 
and dignified sense. For example : " At 
Giles s ranch, on the divide, the party 
halted to cinch up." And then in the 
East it has become the victim of ex 
travagant metaphor. As a verb, it 
means to hold firm, to put a screw on ; 
as a noun, it means a grip or screw, 
an advantage fair or unfair. In the 
hand of the sporting reporter it can 
achieve wonders. "The bettor of whom 
the pool - room bookmaker stands in 
dread" this flower of speech is culled 
from the New York World "is the 
race - horse owner, who has a cinch 
bottled up for a particular race, and 
drops into the room an hour or two 
before the race begins." The idea of 



228 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

bottling a cinch is enough to make a 
Californian shudder, and this confused 
image helps to explain the difference 
between East and West. 

Thus words wander farther and far 
ther from their origin ; and when at last 
their meanings are wholly forgotten or 
obscured, they become part of the com 
mon speech. One kind of Slang may 
succeed to another, but cinch is secure 
for ever of a place in the newspaper, 
and in the spoken language, of America. 
Caboodle, also, is firmly established. 
The long series of words, such as 
Cachunk or Kerblunk, which suggest 
the impact of falling bodies with the 
earth, will live as expletives with Say, 
Sure, and many other interjections 
which fill up the pauses of thought and 
speech. There are two other specimens 
of Slang beloved by the journals, for 
which it would be rash to prophesy a 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 229 

long life. To call a man or a thing 
or an act "the limit," is for the 
moment the highest step, save one, in 
praise or blame. When the limit is 
not eloquent enough to describe the 
hero who has climbed the topmost rung 
of glory, the language gasps into sim 
plicity, and declares that he is It. "I 
didn t do a thing," says an eminent 
writer, " but push my face in there 
about eight o clock last night, and I 
was It from the start." Though the 
pronoun is expressive enough, it does 
not carry with it the signs of immor 
tality, and the next change of fashion 
may sweep it away into the limbo of 
forgotten words. 

The journals do their best to keep 
alive the language of the people. The 
novelists do far more, since their 
works outlive by months or years the 
exaggeration of the press. And the 



230 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

novelists, though in narrative they 
preserve a scrupulous respect for the 
literary language, take what licence the 
dialect and character of their personages 
permit them. It is from novels, indeed, 
that future generations will best be 
able to construct the speech of to-day. 
With the greatest skill the writers of 
romance mimic the style and accent 
of their contemporaries. They put into 
the mouths of those who, in life, knew 
no other lingo, the highly-flavoured Slang 
of the street or the market. Here, for 
instance, is the talk of a saloon-keeper, 
taken from W. Payne s story, The 
Money Captain, which echoes, as nearly 
as printed words can echo, the voice 
of the boodler : 

"Stop it?" says the saloon-keeper of a 
journalist s attack. "What I got to stop it 
with ? What s the matter with you fellows 
anyhow ? You come chasm yourselves down 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 231 

here, scared out of your wits because a dinky 
little one cent newspaper s makin faces at 
you. A man d think you was a young 
lady s Bible-class and d seen a mouse. . . . 
Now, that s right," he exclaims, as another 
assailant appears; "make it unanimous. Let 
all hands come and rig the ship on old Simp. 
Tell him your troubles and ask him to help 
you out. He ain t got nothing better to do. 
Pitch into him; give him hell; he likes it. 
Come one, come all all you moth-eaten, lousy 
stiffs from Stiffville. Come, tell Simp there s 
a reporter rubberin around and you re scared 
to death. He ll sympathise with you you 
sweet-scented skates." 

It is not an elegant method of 
speech, but such as it is, it bears as 
close a resemblance to the dialect of 
Chicago as can be transferred from the 
ear to the eye. 

If we compare the present with the 
past, we cannot but acknowledge that 
American Slang has grown marvellously 
in colour and variety. The jargon of 



232 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Artemus Ward and Josh Billings pos 
sessed as little fire as character. These 
two humourists obtained their effect by 
the simple method, lately advocated by 
Messrs Koosevelt and Carnegie, of spell 
ing as they pleased. The modern pro 
fessors of Slang have invented a new 
style. Their pages sparkle with wit and 
allusion. They interpret their shrewd 
sense in words and phrases which have 
never before enjoyed the freedom of 
printer s ink. George Ade, the best 
of them all, has shown us how the 
wise ones of Chicago think and speak. 
His ( Fables in Slang is a little master 
piece of humour in substance and wit 
in expression. To quote from it would 
be to destroy its effect. But it will 
discover the processes of Slang, as 
it is understood in the West, more 
clearly than any argument, and having 
amused the present generation, it will 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 233 

remain an historical document of endur 
ing value. 

Slang is the only language known to 
many thousands of citizens. The newly 
arrived immigrant delights to prove 
his familiarity with the land of his 
adoption by accepting its idioms and 
by speaking the American, not of books 
but of the market-place. And yet this 
same Slang, universally heard and under 
stood, knocks in vain for admission into 
American literature. It expatiates in 
journals, in novels of dialect, and in 
works, like George Ade s, which are de 
signed for its exposition. But it has 
no part in the fabric of the gravely 
written language. Men of letters have 
disdained its use with a scrupulousness 
worthy our own eighteenth century. 
The best of them have written an 
English as pure as a devout respect 
for tradition can make it. Though 



234 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

they have travelled far in space and 
thought, they have anchored their craft 
securely in the past. No writer that 
has handled prose or verse with a high 
seriousness has offended against the 
practice of the masters save only 
Walt Whitman. The written word 
and the spoken word differ even more 
widely in America than elsewhere. 
The spoken word threw off the tram 
mels of an uneasy restraint at the 
very outset. The written word still 
obeys the law of gradual development, 
which has always controlled it. If you 
contrast the English literature of to-day 
with the American, you will find differ 
ences of accent and expression so slight 
that you may neglect them. You will 
find resemblances which prove that it 
is not in vain that our literatures have 
a common origin and have followed a 
common road. The arts, in truth, are 



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE 235 

more willingly obedient than life or 
politics to the established order ; and 
America, free and democratic though she 
be, loyally acknowledges the sovereignty 
of humane letters. American is heard 
at the street corner. It is still Eng 
lish that is written in the study. 



236 



AMERICAN LITERATURE. 

THERE can, in fact, be no clearer proof 
that the tradition of literature is stronger 
than the tradition of life than the ex 
perience of America. The new world, 
to its honour be it said, has discovered 
no new art. The ancient masters of 
our English speech are the masters 
also of America. The golden chain 
of memory cannot be shaken off, and 
many of those who raise with the 
loudest voice the cry of freedom have 
shown themselves the loyal and willing 
slaves of the past. 

The truth is that from the first the 
writers of America have lagged honour- 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 237 

ably behind their age. The wisest of 
them have written with a studious care 
and quiet reverence. As if to mark the 
difference between the written language 
and the vernacular, they have assumed 
a style which belonged to their grand 
fathers. This half - conscious love of 
reaction has been ever present with 
them. You may find examples at each 
stage of their history. Cotton Mather, 
who armed his hand and tongue against 
the intolerable sin of witchcraft, wrote 
when Dutch William was on our throne, 
and in style he was but a belated 
Elizabethan. There is no other writer 
with whom we may compare him, save 
Kobert Burton, who also lived out of 
his due time. Take this specimen of 
his prose, and measure its distance from 
the prose of Swift and Addison, his 
younger contemporaries : " Wherefore 
the Devil," writes Mather in the sim- 



238 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

plicity of his faith, "is now making 
one Attempt more upon us ; an Attempt 
more Difficult, more Surprising, more 
snarl d with unintelligible Circumstances 
than any that we have hitherto En 
countered ; an Attempt so Critical, that 
if we get well through, we shall soon 
enjoy Halcyon Days with all the 
Vultures of Hell trodden under our 
feet." In sound and structure Mather s 
style is what the critics call " archaistic." 
It is all untouched by the influences 
of another world, and though " the New 
Englanders were," in Mather s view, "a 
People of God settled in those, which 
were once the Devil s Territories," they 
carried their prose from the old coun 
try, and piously bowed before an old 
tradition. 

Thus has it been with each generation 
of men. Thoreau fondly believed that 
Walden had brought him near to nature, 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 239 

and he wrote with the accumulated 
artifice of the centuries. Hawthorne s 
language was as old in fashion as the 
Salem which he depicted, as " the grave, 
bearded, sable - cloaked, and steeple- 
crowned progenitor, who came so early 
with his Bible and his sword, and trode 
the common street with such stately 
port, and made so large a figure as a 
man of war and peace." But it was 
upon Emerson that tradition has most 
strangely exercised its imperious sway. 
Now Emerson was an anarch who flouted 
the conventions of art and life. It was 
his hope to see the soul of this world 
" clean from all vestige of tradition." 
He did not understand that what ie 
proceeded inevitably from what was 
He affected to spurn the past as a clog 
upon his individuality. Anticipating 
Walt Whitman, he would have driven 
away his nearest friends, saying, " Who 



240 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

are you ? Unhand me : I will be de 
pendent no more." So lightly did he 
pretend to esteem history that he was 
sure that an individual experience could 
explain all the ages, that each man 
went through in his own lifetime the 
Greek period, the medieval period 
every period, in brief until he attained 
to the efflorescence of Concord. "What 
have I to do with the sacredness of 
tradition," he asked proudly, " if I live 
wholly from within ? " So much had 
he to do with it that he never wrote 
a line save in obedience. Savage as he 
was in the declaration of his own indi 
viduality, he expressed it in the gracious 
terms of an inherited art. To this age 
Emerson s provincialism appears sad 
enough. It would not have been re 
membered had it not been set forth in 
a finely studied and mellifluous prose. 
No sooner did Emerson take pen in 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 241 

hand than his anarchy was subdued. 
He instantly became the slave of all 
the periods which he despised. He was 
a faithful follower of the best models, 
a patient student of masters dead and 
gone. Though he aspired to live wholly 
from within, he composed his works 
wholly from without, and fashioned an 
admirable style for himself, more antique 
in shape and sound than the style 
affected by the Englishmen of his time. 
But it is Edgar Allan Poe who most 
eloquently preached the gospel of style, 
and who most honourably defended the 
cause of art pursued without the aid of 
the pulpit. Taste he declared to be the 
sole arbiter of Poetry. " With the in 
tellect or the Conscience," said he, "it 
has only collateral relations. Unless 
incidentally it has no concern whatever 
either with Duty or Truth." Not that 
he belittled the exigence of Truth ; he 
Q 



242 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

did but insist on a proper separation. 
"The demands of Truth," he admitted, 
" are severe ; she has no sympathy with 
the myrtles. All that which is so indis 
pensable in song is precisely all that 
with which she has nothing whatever 
to do." And thus it followed that he 
had small sympathy with Eealism, 
which he denounced in the clear spirit 
of prophecy many years before it had 
become a battle-cry of criticism : 

The defenders of this pitiable stuff [he 
wrote] uphold it on the ground of its truth 
fulness. Taking the thesis into question, this 
truthfulness is the one overwhelming defect. 
An original idea that to laud the accuracy 
with which the stone is hurled that knocks 
us in the head. A little less accuracy might 
have left us more brains. And here are 
critics absolutely commending the truthful 
ness with which the disagreeable is conveyed ! 
In my view, if an artist must paint decayed 
cheeses, his merit will lie in their looking as 
little like decayed cheeses as possible. 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 243 

Of this wise doctrine Poe was always 
a loyal exponent. The strange veiled 
country in which he placed the shadows 
of his creation lay not within the borders 
of the United States. He was the child 
neither of his land nor of his century. 
Dwelling among men who have always 
worshipped size, he believed that there 
was no such thing as a long poem. A 
fellow-citizen of bustling men, he refused 
to bend the knee to industry. " Per 
severance is one thing," said he, " genius 
quite another." And it is not surpris 
ing that he lived and died without great 
honour in his own country. Even those 
of his colleagues who guarded the dig 
nity of their craft with a zeal equal to 
his own, shrank from the pitiless logic 
of his analysis. They loved his work 
as little as they respected his life. They 
judged him by a censorious standard 
which took no account of genius. And 



244 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

Poe shared with dignity and without 
regret the common fate of prophets. If 
he is still an exile in American esteem, 
he long since won the freedom of the 
larger world. He has been an inspira 
tion to France, the inspirer of the 
nations. He did as much as any one 
of his contemporaries to mould the 
literary art of our day, and in the prose 
of Baudelaire and Mallarme he lives a 
life whose lustre the indifference of his 
compatriots will never dim. 

Whence comes it, this sedulous at 
tention to style, which does honour 
to American literature ? It comes in 
part, I think, from the fact that, be 
fore the triumph of journalism, Ameri 
can men of letters were secluded from 
their fellows. They played no role in 
the national drama. They did not work 
for fame in the field of politics. They 
were a band of aristocrats dwelling in 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 245 

a democracy, an imperium in imperio. 
They wrote their works for themselves 
and their frietfds. They made no ap 
peal to the people, and knowing that 
they would be read by those capable 
of pronouncing sentence, they justified 
their temerity by a proper castigation 
of their style. And there is another 
reason why American literature should 
be honourably formal and punctilious. 
If the written language diverges widely 
from the vernacular, it must perforce 
be studied more sedulously than where 
no such divergence is observed. For 
the American, accustomed to the 
language spoken by his countrymen 
and to the lingo of the daily press, 
literary English is an acquired tongue, 
which he studies with diligence and 
writes with care. He treats it with 
the same respect with which some Scots 
Drummond, Urquhart, and Stevenson 



246 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

have treated it, and under his hand 
it assumes a classic austerity, sometimes 
missed by the Englishman, who writes 
it with the fluency and freedom bred of 
familiar use. The stately and erudite 
work of Francis Parkman is a fair ex 
ample. The historian of Montcalm 
and Wolfe has a clear title to im 
mortality. Assuredly he holds a worthy 
place among the masters. He is of the 
breed of Gibbon and Michelet, of Livy 
and Froude. He knows how to sub 
ordinate knowledge to romance. He 
disdains the art of narrative as little 
as he disdains the management of the 
English sentence. He is never care 
less, seldom redundant. The plainest 
of his effects are severely studied. 
Here, for instance, is his portrait of 
an Indian chief, epic in its simplicity, 
and withal composed with obvious 
artistry : 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 247 

See him as he lies there in the sun, kicking 
his heels in the air and cracking jokes with 
his brother. Does he look like a hero ? See 
him now in the hour of his glory, when at 
sunset the whole village empties itself to be 
hold him, for to-morrow their favourite young 
partisan goes out against the enemy. His 
head-dress is adorned with a crest of war- 
eagle s feathers, rising in a waving ridge 
above his brow, and sweeping far behind 
him. His round white shield hangs at his 
breast, with feathers radiating from the centre 
like a star. His quiver is at his back; his 
tall lance in his hand, the iron point flashing 
against the declining sun, while the long scalp- 
locks of his enemies flutter from the shaft. 
Thus gorgeous as a champion in panoply, he 
rides round and round within the great circle 
of lodges, balancing with a graceful buoyancy 
to the free movements of his war-horse, while 
with a sedate brow he sings his song to the 
Great Spirit. 

That is the language of classicism. The 
epithets are not far-sought. They come 
naturally to the mind. The hero s 
shield is round and white ; his lance is 



248 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

tall ; long are the scalp - locks of his 
enemies. Thus would Homer and Virgil 
have heightened the picture, and Park- 
man is clearly attentive to the best 
models. Even when he describes what 
his eye has seen he cannot disengage 
his impression from the associations of 
literature. It is thus that he sets 
before us Braddock s line of march : 

It was like a thin, party-coloured snake, 
red, blue, and brown, trailing slowly through 
the depth of leaves, creeping round inac 
cessible heights, crawling over ridges, moving 
always in dampness and shadow, by rivulets 
and waterfalls, crags and chasms, gorges and 
shaggy steeps. In glimpses only, through 
jagged boughs and flickering leaves, did this 
wild primeval world reveal itself, with its dark 
green mountains, flecked with the morning 
mist, and its distant summits pencilled in 
dreamy blue. 

As you read these words you are less 
keenly conscious of a visual impression 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 249 

than of a verbal effect, and it may be 
said without reserve that never for a 
page of his many volumes does Park- 
man forget the demands of dignity 
and restraint. 

Excellent as is the style, it is never 
American. Parkman does not reveal 
his origin in a single phrase. He has 
learned to write not in his own land, 
but in the England of the eighteenth 
century. When he speaks of " the 
pampered Sardanapalus of Versailles," 
and of " the silken favourites calcu 
lated adultery," we are conscious that 
he has learnt whatever lesson Gibbon 
has to teach. In other words, he, too, 
is obedient to the imperious voice of 
convention. And the novelists follow 
the same path as the historians. Mr 
Henry James, in his patient analysis 
of human character, has evoked such 
subtle harmonies as our English speech 



250 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

has not known before. Mr Howells, even 
when he finds his material in the land 
of his birth, shows himself the master 
of a classic style, exquisite in balance 
and perfect in tone. And both share 
the common inheritance of our tongue, 
are links in the central chain of our 
tradition, and in speech, if not in 
thought, are sternly conservative. 

This, then, is an irony of America, 
that the country which has a natural 
dislike of the past still dances to the 
ancient measures, that the country 
which has invented so much has not 
invented a new method of expression, 
that the country which questions all 
things accepts its literature in simple 
faith. The advantages of conformity 
are obvious. Tradition is nine -tenths 
of all the arts, and the writers of 
America have escaped the ruin which 
overtakes the bold adventurer who 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 251 

stakes his all upon first principles. But 
sometimes we miss the one -tenth that 
might be added. How much is there 
in the vast continent which might be 
translated into words ! And how little 
has achieved a separate, living utter 
ance ! Mr Stedman has edited an 
American Anthology, a stout volume 
of some eight hundred pages, whose 
most obvious quality is a certain tech 
nical accomplishment. The unnumbered 
bards of America compose their verses 
with a diffident neatness, which recalls 
the Latin style of classical scholars. 
The workmanship is deft, the inspira 
tion is literary. If many of the 
authors names were transposed small 
injustice would be done them. The 
most of the work might have been 
written anywhere and under any con 
ditions. Neither sentiment nor local 
colour suggests the prairie or the camp. 



252 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

It is the intervention of dialect which 
alone confers a distinctive character 
upon American verse. Wisely is Mr 
Stedman s collection called an Antho 
logy. It has something of the same 
ingenuity, the same impersonality, 
which marks the famous Anthology of 
the Greeks ; it illustrates the temper 
not of a young but of an old people. 

How shall we surprise in her litera 
ture the true spirit of America ? Surely 
not in Walt Whitman, whose work is 
characteristic not of his country, but 
of himself, who fondly believed that 
he would make a loud appeal to the 
democracy because he stamped upon 
the laws of verse, and used words 
which are not to be found in the 
dictionary. Had the people ever en 
countered his Leaves of Grass/ it 
would not have understood it. The 
verse for which the people craves is 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 253 

the ditties of the music-hall. It has 
no desire to consider its own imper 
fections with a self-conscious eye. It 
delights in the splendour of mirrors, 
in the sparkle of champagne, in the 
trappings of a sordid and remote 
romance. The praise of liberty and 
equality suits the ear not of the 
democrat, but of the politician and 
dilettante, and it was to the dilettante 
and politician that Walt Whitman ad 
dressed his exhortations. Even his 
studied contempt for the literary con 
ventions is insincere, and falls away 
from him when he sees and feels most 
vividly. He attempted to put into 
practice Emerson s theory of anarchy. 
He was at the pains to prove that he 
was at once a savage and a poet. 
That he had moments of poetic exal 
tation is true. The pomp of Brook 
lyn Ferry lives in his stately verse. 



254 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

But he was no savage. It was his 
culture that spoke to the culture of 
others ; it was a worn - out common 
place which won him the regard of 
politicians. He inspired parodists, not 
poets. And he represented America as 
little as he echoed the voice of the 
people. 

Nor is it in the works of the 
humourists that we shall catch a 
glimpse of the national character. 
They, too, cast no shadow but their 
own. They attain their effects by bad 
spelling, and a simple transliteration re 
veals the poverty of their wit. There 
is but one author who represents with 
any clarity the spirit of his country, 
and that author is Mark Twain. Not 
Mark Twain the humourist, the favour 
ite of the reporters, the facile con- 
temner of things which are noble and 
of good report, but Mark Twain, the 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 255 

pilot of the Mississippi, the creator of 
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. He 
is national as Fielding is national. 
Future ages will look upon Huck 
Finn as we look upon Tom Jones, 
as an embodiment of national virtue. 
And Mark Twain s method is his 
own as intimately as the puppets of 
his imagining. It is impossible to 
read a page of his masterpieces with 
out recognising that they could have 
been composed only in an American 
environment. The dialect in which 
they are written enhances their veri 
similitude without impairing their 
dignity ; and the flashes of humour 
which light up the gravity of the 
narrative are never out of place nor 
out of tune. The cunning and re 
sourcefulness of his boyish heroes are 
the cunning and resourcefulness of 
America, and the sombre Mississippi is 



256 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

the proper background for this national 
epic. The danger, the excitement, the 
solemnity of the great river are vividly 
portrayed. They quicken his narra 
tive ; they inspire him to eloquence. 
He remembers with a simple enthusi 
asm the glory of the sun setting upon 
its broad expanse ; he remembers also 
that the river and its shoals are things 
to fear and to fight. 

Fully to realise the marvellous precision 
[he writes] required in laying the great 
steamer in her marks in that murky waste 
of water, one should know that not only 
must she pick her intricate way through 
snags and blind reefs, and then shave the 
head of the island so closely as to brush the 
overhanging foliage with her stern, but at 
one place she must pass almost within arm s 
reach of a sunken and visible wreck that 
would snatch the hull timbers from under 
her if she should strike it, and destroy a 
quarter of a million dollars worth of steam 
boat and cargo in five minutes, and maybe 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 257 

a hundred and fifty human lives into the 
bargain. 

In calm, as in flood, Mark Twain 
has mastered the river, and has made 
it his own. Once upon a time the 
Mississippi called up a vision of the 
great Gulf opening on the sight of 
La Salle, " tossing its restless billows, 
limitless, voiceless, lonely as when born 
of chaos, without a sail, without a 
sign of life." Now a humbler image is 
evoked, and we picture Huck Finn and 
Jim floating down the broad stream in 
the august society of the Duke and the 
Dauphin. 

Though Mark Twain cultivates the 
South- Western dialect, and does not dis 
dain the speech of Pike County, there 
is in his two romances no suspicion of 
provincialism. Style and imagination 
give them the freedom of the whole 
world. They are of universal truth 
n 



258 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

and application. But since the days 
of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer the 
conditions of American literature have 
changed, and for the worse. As in 
England, so in America, a wide diffusion 
of books, an eager and general interest 
in printed matter, have had a disas 
trous effect. The newspapers, by giving 
an improper advertisement to the makers 
of books, have rendered the literary 
craft more difficult of pursuit. The 
ambition of money has obscured the 
simple end of literature, and has encour 
aged a spirit of professionalism eminent 
ly characteristic of a practical country. 
We hear of works of fiction sketched 
in the back-offices of publishers, whose 
hands are held upon the public pulse. 
All is arranged, we are told, by the 
man of business period, plot, char 
acters. Nothing is left to the novelist 
but to carry out the instructions of 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 259 

his taskmaster, and when you contem 
plate the result you can feel no surprise 
at this composite authorship. It is no 
better than a money -making partner 
ship, a return to the miserable prac 
tices of Grub Street and its hacks, 
a curiosity of trade, not of art, and 
so long as its sorry product is distin 
guished from genuine literature no 
great harm is done. 

Of the modern tendencies which 
affect literature, not commerce, the 
most conspicuous is the tendency to 
decentralise. Every province has its 
coterie, every county its school. The 
whole continent is pegged out in well- 
acknowledged claims. Boston cultivates 
one style, Chicago another. Each corner 
makes the most of its own material, 
and cheerfully discovers to the other 
States its character and temperament. 
The result is of great and varied in- 



260 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

terest. The social history of America 
is being written piecemeal, and written 
often with a skill and sincerity which 
merit the highest praise. And not 
merely has each province found its 
chronicler, but the immigrants, also, 
are intent upon self-expression. The 
little masterpieces of Abraham Cahan 
are an earnest of what the Ghetto can 
achieve, and whether the Jews are faith 
ful to Yiddish, or, like Cahan, acquire 
the language of their adopted country, 
there is no reason why they should 
not atone in a free land for centuries 
of silence. To enumerate the manifold 
achievements of the States is impos 
sible. One example will suffice, and 
no city will better suit my purpose 
than Chicago. That admirable litera 
ture should come from Chicago is 
of itself a paradox. It is still more 
surprising that the best writers of 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 261 

Chicago should display the qualities of 
tranquillity and reticence, which you 
would expect least of all to find in 
that monstrous city. Yet it is char 
acteristic of Miss Edith Wyatt and Mr 
H. B. Fuller, who have painted the 
manners of Chicago with the greatest 
skill, that they never force the note. 
They look upon their fellow -citizens 
with an amiable sympathy ; they de 
scribe them with a quiet humour. It is 
true that they have an excellent oppor 
tunity. It is true also that they rise 
to their occasion. Within the limits 
of Chicago are met the most diverse 
of men. On the one hand are the 
captains of industry, intent to amass 
a fortune at all costs ; on the other 
are the sorry prigs who haunt Ibsen 
clubs and chatter of Browning. Miss 
Wyatt, with an exquisite irony, makes 
clear her preference. In her eyes the 



262 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

square- dealing and innocent boodler is 
a far better man than the sophisticated 
apostle of culture, and this truth she 
illustrates with a modesty and restraint 
which are rarely met with in modern 
fiction. She never insists ; she never 
says a word too much. With exquisite 
concision she sets her carefully selected 
facts and types before you, and being 
the antithesis of priggishness in a prig 
gish city, she glorifies " the common 
growth of Mother Earth," and compels 
your agreement. Her collection of 
stories Every One His Own Way 
as free from pretence as from exaggera 
tion, paints the citizens of Chicago with 
the subtlest fancy and the simplest 
truthfulness. 

Mr H. B. Fuller employs an ampler 
canvas. His intention is the same. He 
also discards the artifice of exaggeration. 
He attempts to harrow your feelings as 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 263 

little as to advertise himself. He dis 
plays not the sceva indignatio, which 
won another novelist of Chicago so 
indiscreet a fame. He is for gentler 
methods and plainer judgments. In 
The Cliff Dwellers he has given us 
a picture of the tribe inhabiting the 
Clifton, a monstrous sky - scraper full 
eighteen stories tall, whose " hundreds 
of windows," he tells you, "glitter with 
multitudinous letterings in gold and in 
silver, and on summer afternoons its awn 
ings flutter score on score in the tepid 
breezes that sometimes come up from 
Indiana." His picture is never over 
charged ; his draughtsmanship is always 
sincere. He knows the tribe with an 
easy familiarity, and he bears witness to 
their good and their evil with perfect 
impartiality. He is never a partisan. 
His portraits are just, and he leaves 
his reader to sum up the qualities 



264 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

of each. At his hands Chicago suffers 
no injury. She does not return his 
generosity. A prophet is not without 
honour save in his own country, and 
when I asked for his books at the 
biggest bookshop in Chicago, I was met 
with a stare of ignorance. 

And what you find in Chicago you 
may find in New England, in Kentucky, 
in California, everywhere. The curiosity 
of this vast continent tempts its writers 
to explore. Their material varies with 
the locality of their choice. Their skill 
is a common inheritance. They cul 
tivate the graces as carefully as did 
their predecessors. Their artistic con 
science is no less acute. Above all, 
they have brought the short story to a 
point of singular perfection. If Edgar 
Poe showed them the way, they have 
proved themselves apter disciples than 
any save the most skilful of Frenchmen. 



AMERICAN LITERATURE 265 

It is, indeed, impossible to look forward 
to the future of American literature 
without hopefulness. In that half-dis 
covered country style and invention 
go hand in hand. The land of Mr 
Howells and Frank Norris, of Mrs 
Atherton and Mrs Wharton, of Stephen 
Crane and Harold Frederic, has accom 
plished so much that we may look 
confidently for the master, who in his 
single achievement will knit up its 
many diverse qualities and speak to the 
world with the voice of America. 



266 



THE UNDERWORLD. 

NOWHERE and at no time, save in the 
England of the eighteenth century, was 
the underworld so populous or so pop 
ular as in the America of to-day. In 
life, as in letters, crime and criminals 
hold there a lofty place. They are the 
romance of the street and the tenement- 
house. In their adventure and ferocity 
there is a democratic touch, which 
endears them to a free people. Nor 
are they so far remote from the world 
of prosperity and respect in the cities 
of the United States as elsewhere. The 
police is a firm and constant link be 
tween criminal and politician. Wher- 



THE UNDERWORLD 267 

ever the safe-blowers and burglars are, 
there you will find stool-pigeons and 
squealers, 1 ready to sell their comrades 
for liberty and dollars. And if the 
policeman is the intimate of the grafter, 
he is the client also of the boss who 
graciously bestowed his uniform upon 
him. At chowder parties and picnics 
thief, policeman, and boss meet on the 
terms of equality imposed upon its 
members by the greatest of all philan 
thropic institutions Tammany Hall. 
If you would get a glimpse into this 
strange state within a state, you have 
but to read the evidence given before 
the Lexow Committee 2 in 1894. It 
would be difficult to match the cynicism 

1 A stool-pigeon is a thief in the pay of the police ; 
a squealer is a grafter who betrays his brother. 

2 This strange collection of documents, a whole 
literature in itself, bears the prosaic title, " Investi 
gations of the Police Department of the City of New 
York. 



268 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

and brutality there disclosed. In every 
line of this amazing testimony you may 
detect a contempt of human life and 
justice, an indifference to suffering, an 
eager lust after unearned dollars, which 
are without parallel. The persons who 
play their part in this austere, begrimed 
tragi- comedy, come for the most part 
from oversea, and have but a halting 
knowledge of the language spoken by 
judges and senators. Yet their very 
ignorance stamps their speech with 
authenticity, and enhances its effect. 
The quick dialogue is packed with life 
and slang. Never were seen men and 
women so strange as flit across this 
stage. Crook and guy, steerer and 
turner, keepers of gambling-hells and shy 
saloons, dealers in green - goods, 1 come 
forward with their eager stories of what 
seems to them oppression and wrong. 

1 Forged dollar-notes. 



THE UNDERWORLD 269 

With the simplicity which knows no 
better they deplore their ill - rewarded 
"industry," and describe their fraudulent 
practices as though they were a proper 
means of earning bread and butter. 
They have as little shame as repentance. 
Their only regrets are that they have 
been ruined by the police or forced to 
spend a few barren years in the State 
prison. And about them hover always 
detective and police-captain, ill-omened 
birds of prey, who feed upon the 
underworld. There is nothing more 
remarkable in this drama of theft and 
hunger than the perfect understanding 
which unites the criminal lamb and 
the wolfish upholder of the law. The 
grafter looks to his opponent for pro 
tection, and looks not in vain, so long 
as he has money in his pocket. The 
detective shepherds the law - breakers, 
whom he is appointed to arrest ; he 



270 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

lives with them ; he shares their confi 
dences and their gains ; he encourages 
their enterprise that he may earn a 
comfortable dividend ; and he gives 
them up to justice when they are no 
longer worth defending. No dramatist 
that ever lived could do justice to this 
astounding situation, and it is the 
highest tribute to human ingenuity that 
few of the interlocutors fall below their 
opportunity. 

And it may be admitted that New 
York gave, and gives, an easy chance 
to policemen bent upon oppression. 
What can the poor, ignorant foreigners, 
who throng the east side of the city, 
do against their brutal and omnipotent 
guardians ? " An impressive spectacle 
was presented to us one day," reports 
the Committee, " in the presence of 
about 100 patrolmen in uniform, who 
during the period of three preceding 



THE UNDERWORLD 271 

years had been convicted by the police 
commissioners of unprovoked and un 
warranted assault on citizens." Still 
more impressive than " this exhibit of 
convicted clubbers" was "a stream of 
victims of police brutality who testified 
before the Committee. The eye of one 
man, punched out by a patrolman s 
club, hung on his cheek. Others were 
brought before the Committee, fresh 
from their punishment, covered with 
blood and bruises, and in some cases 
battered out of recognition." The whole 
city seemed the prey of a panic terror. 
One day "a man rushed into the session, 
fresh from an assault made upon him 
by a notorious politician and two police 
men, and with fear depicted upon his 
countenance threw himself upon the 
mercy of the Committee and asked its 
protection, insisting that he knew of no 
court and of no place where he could 



272 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

in safety go and obtain protection from 
his persecutors." From all which it is 
plain that too high a price may be paid 
for the philanthropy of Tammany Hall, 
and that a self - governing democracy 
cannot always keep an efficient watch 
upon its guardians. 

What is it in the life and atmosphere 
of America which thus encourages crime, 
or rather elevates crime to a level of 
excellence unknown elsewhere? In the 
first place, the citizens of New York 
are the disciples of Hobbes. To them 
life is a state of war. The ceaseless 
competition for money is a direct in 
centive to the combat. Nature seems 
to have armed every man s hand against 
his fellow. And then the American is 
always happiest when he believes him 
self supreme in his own walk. The 
man who inhabits the greatest country 
on earth likes to think of his talent as 



THE UNDERWORLD 273 

commensurate with his country s. If 
he be a thief, he must be the most 
skilful of his kind ; if he be a black 
mailing policeman, he must be a perfect 
adept at the game. In brief, restless 
ness and the desire of superiority have 
produced a strange result, and there is 
little doubt that the vulgar American 
is insensitive to moral shocks. This 
insensitiveness is easily communicated 
to the curious visitor. A traveller of 
keen observation and quick intelligence, 
who has recently spent " a year amongst 
Americans," accepts the cynicism of the 
native without a murmur. After yield 
ing to that spirit of enthusiastic hope 
which is breathed by the Statue of 
Liberty, he thus discusses the newly- 
arrived alien : 

Even the stars in their courses [thus he 
writes] fight for America, if not always for the 
immigrant when he lands. The politicians 

S 



274 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

would fain prevent his assimilation in order 
that his vote might be easily manipulated by 
them ; but first of all he must have a vote 
to be handled, and to this end the politicians 
provide him with naturalisation papers, fraudu 
lent it may be the State Superintendent of 
Elections in New York estimates that 100,000 
fraudulent naturalisation papers were issued 
in New York State alone in 1903, and thus 
in the very beginning of his life in America 
the immigrant feels himself identified with, 
and takes delight and pride in, the American 
name and nature ; and lo ! already the alien 
is bound to the "native" by the tie of a 
common sentiment, the ^09 of the Greeks, 
which is one of the most powerful factors of 
nationality. 

Poor r)0os \ many follies have been 
j. spoken in your name ! But never 
before were you identified with fraudu 
lent naturalisation ! Never before were 
you mistaken for the trick of a man 
ipulating politician ! 

Such being the tie of a common 
sentiment, it is not surprising that the 



THE UNDERWORLD 275 

Americans are universally accustomed 
to graft and boodle. With character 
istic frankness they have always pro 
fessed a keen interest in those who 
live by their wits. It is not for 
nothing that Allan Pinkerton, the 
eminent detective, called affectionately 
" the old man," is a national hero. 
His perfections are already celebrated 
in a prose epic, and he is better known 
to west as to east than the President 
himself. And this interest, this sense 
of heroism, are expressed in a vast and 
entertaining literature. Nowhere has 
this literature of scoundrelism, adorned 
by Defoe and beloved by Borrow, flour 
ished as it has flourished in America. 
Between the dime novel and the stern 
documents of the Lexow Committee there 
is room for history and fiction of every 
kind. The crooked ones of the earth 
have vied with the detectives in the 



276 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

proper relation of their experiences. On 
the one hand you find the great Pinker- 
ton publishing to the world a breath 
less selection from his own archives ; on 
the other, so practised a novelist as 
Mr Julian Hawthorne embellishing the 
narrative of Inspector Byrnes ; and it 
is evident that both of them satisfy a 
general curiosity. In these records of 
varying merit and common interest 
the attentive reader may note the 
changes which have taken place in 
the method and practice of thieving. 
There is no man so ready to adapt 
himself to new circumstances as the 
scoundrel, and the ingenuity of the 
American rogue has never been ques 
tioned. In the old days of the back 
woods and romance Jesse James rode 
forth on a high -mettled steed to hold 
up cars, coaches, and banks ; and James 
Murel, the horse -thief, celebrated by 



THE UNDERWORLD 277 

Mark Twain, whose favourite disguise was 
that of an itinerant preacher, cherished 
no less a project than an insurrection 
of negroes and the capture of New 
Orleans. The robber of to - day is a 
stern realist. He knows nothing of 
romance. A ride under the stars and 
a swift succession of revolver - shots 
have no fascination for him. He likes 
to work in secret upon safe or burglar- 
box. He has moved with the times, 
and has at his hand all the resources 
of modern science. If we do not know 
all that is to be known of him and 
his ambitions it is our own fault, since 
the most expert of his class, Langdon 
W. Moore, has given us in His Own 
Story of his Eventful Life (Boston, 
1893) a complete revelation of a crook s 
career. It is an irony of life that such 
a book as this should come out of 
Boston, and yet it is so quick in 



278 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

movement, of so breathless an excite 
ment, that it may outlive many speci 
mens of Bostonian lore and culture. It 
is but one example out of many, chosen 
because in style as in substance it out 
strips all competitors. 

Without knowing it, Langdon W. 
Moore is a disciple of Defoe. He has 
achieved by accident that which the 
author of Moll Flanders achieved by 
art. There is a direct simplicity in 
his narrative which entitles him to a 
place among the masters. He describes 
hair -breadth escapes and deadly perils 
with the confident air of one who is 
always exposed to them. He gives the 
impression of the hunted and the 
hunter more vividly than any writer 
of modern times. When he is opening 
a safe, you hear, in spite of yourself, 
the stealthy step upon the stair. If he 
watches for a pal at the street end, 



THE UNDERWORLD 279 

you share his anxiety lest that pal 
should be intercepted by the watchful 
detective. And he produces his effects 
without parade or ornament. He tells 
his story with a studied plainness, and 
by adding detail to detail keeps your 
interest ever awake. Like many other 
great men, he takes his skill and enter 
prise for granted. He does not write 
of his exploits as though he were always 
amazed at his own proficiency. Of 
course he has a certain pride in his 
skill. He cannot describe his perfect 
mastery over all the locks that ever 
were made without a modest thrill. 
He does not disguise his satisfaction at 
Inspector Byrnes opinion that "he had 
so deeply studied combination locks as 
to be able to open them from the sound 
ejected from the spindle." For the rest, 
he recognises that he is merely a work 
man, like another, earning his living, and 



280 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

that nothing can be accomplished save 
by ceaseless industry and untiring toil. 
Like many another hero, Langdon 
W. Moore was born in New England, 
and was brought up at Newburyport, 
a quiet seaport town. The only sign 
of greatness to be detected in his early 
life was an assault upon a schoolmaster, 
and he made ample atonement for this 
by years of hard work upon a farm. 
He was for a while a typical hayseed, 
an expert reaper, ready to match him 
self against all comers. He reached his 
zenith when he was offered fifty dollars 
in gold for six weeks toil, and he re 
cords with a justified pleasure that "no 
man had ever been paid such high 
wages as that." But his energetic spirit 
soon wearied of retirement, and he found 
his way to New York, not to be fleeced, 
like the hayseed of the daily press, 
but to fleece others. The gambling 



THE UNDERWORLD 281 

hells knew him ; he became an adept 
at poker and faro ; and he soon learned 
how to correct or to compel fortune. 
His first experiment was made upon 
one Charley White, who dealt faro bank 
every Saturday night; and it is thus 
that Moore describes the effect of an 
ingenious discovery : 

He kept his box and cards in a closet ad 
joining his room. One night during his 
absence I fitted a key to his closet, took out 
his cards, and sand-papered the face of eight 
cards in each deck. I then removed the top 
of his faro-box, bulged out the centre of the 
front plate at the mouth, and filed the plate 
on the inside at both corners to a bevel. I 
then replaced the top, put in a deck of cards, 
and made a deal. I found the cards not 
sanded would follow up and fill the mouth 
of the box after each turn was made ; and 
if the mouth remained dark and the edge of 
the top card could not be seen, one of the 
sand-papered cards was next, and a loser. 
This would give me several " dead " turns in 
each deal. 



282 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

By this means the great man, still de 
spised as a Boston bean-eater, was able 
to bring his adversary to ruin. The 
adversary at last discovered the arti 
fice, and "for the next five years," to 
quote Moore s own words, "we met as 
strangers." 

It will be seen that from his earliest 
days Moore possessed a scientific ingen 
uity, which the hard experience of life 
rapidly improved. And it was not long 
before a definite direction was given to 
his talent. Arrested in 1856, as he 
thought unjustly, he determined "to 
do no more work until obliged to do it 
for the State." He therefore turned his 
skill of hand to account, and went into 
the " green goods business." His success 
in this venture was so great that he 
made the best dollar bills ever put 
upon the market, and he boasts legiti 
mately that in the game he "never 



THE UNDERWORLD 283 

lost a man." Presently he discovered 
that there was a quicker profit in stolen 
bonds. " From my first venture in this 
bond -smashing business," to quote his 
own simple words, "in 1862 up to 
1870, I made more money than in any 
branch of industry I was ever engaged 
in." "Branch of industry" is admir 
able, and proves that Moore had a proper 
appreciation of his craft. But bond- 
smashing compelled a perfect knowledge 
of locks and bolts, and in this know 
ledge, as has been said, Moore was 
supreme. At the end of his career, 
when he had hung his arms upon the 
wall, and retired to spend a green old 
age at Boston, it was to his treatment 
of Yale and Lillie locks that he looked 
back with the greatest pleasure. But 
no exploit flattered his vanity more 
easily than the carrying off from the 
Bank at Concord the Concord of Emer- 



284 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

son and Hawthorne of some three 
hundred thousand dollars. That he 
purchased his freedom by an ample 
restitution mattered nothing to the 
artist. His purpose was achieved, his 
victory won, and if his victims came 
by their own again, he at least had the 
satisfaction which comes of a successful 
engagement. 

Of this adventure he writes with 
more enthusiasm than he is wont to 
show. He wishes his readers to under 
stand that it was not a sudden descent, 
but the culmination of five months 
steady work. He had watched the 
bank until he knew the habits of its 
manager and the quality of its locks. 
He " was satisfied from all he saw that 
by hard persistent work the bank could 
be cleaned out completely." It was on 
a July day in 1867 that the scheme 
first took shape in Moore s mind. He 



THE UNDERWORLD 285 

had stopped at noon at the hotel at 
Concord for food, and saw the cashier of 
the bank returning from his dinner. 

The bank had been closed during his 
absence [thus he tells his simple story], 
and he now unlocked the street door and 
left the key in the lock. I followed him up 
stairs and saw him unlock the outer and inner 
doors of the vault, and also the door of the 
burglar -box. I presented a hundred - dollar 
note and asked to have it changed. Being 
accommodated, I left the place, observing as 
I went out that the lock on the street door 
was a heavy one of the familiar tumbler 
variety, and that it had a wooden back. 

Thus the train was laid, and in three 
months came the explosion. Impress 
ions were taken of locks, keys were 
provided, a waggon and team were 
held in readiness, and one day as 
the cashier left the bank to get his 
dinner, Langdon W. Moore, with a 
meal - bag concealed under his vest, 



286 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

quietly opened the front door and 
entered the bank. One check he knew. 
As he went in a girl of twelve tried 
to follow him a near relative of the 
cashier. The exercise of a little tact 
satisfied her that the directors were 
in session, and she ran off to her 
playmates under the big elm at the 
opposite corner of the street. Moore 
lost no time in locking the door behind 
him, in opening all the locks, which 
yielded to his cunning and foresight, 
and in packing the meal - bag full 
of bonds, bank-notes, and plate. He 
accomplished the deed without haste, 
and by the time that the cashier 
had finished his dinner Moore had 
disappeared with his bag, and his 
waggon, and his friends, and left no 
trace behind. 

Another masterpiece, in Moore s 
opinion, was what he magniloquently 



THE UNDERWORLD 287 

calls the great robbery of an express 
car. Here, too, he proved the fine 
ness of his craft. He left nothing 
to chance, and he foresaw, with the 
coolness of a practised hand, every 
step which his adversaries would take. 
His first care was to obtain the assist 
ance of the messenger who travelled 
on the car which he proposed to rob, 
and the zeal and energy wherewith 
he coached his accomplices ensured 
success. Again and again he rehearsed 
every scene in the comedy. Before 
his eyes the messenger was attacked 
by two masked ruffians, of whom one 
caught him by the throat, while the 
other put a pistol to his head, saying, 
" If you open your mouth I will blow 
a hole through your head large enough 
for a pigeon to fly through." Then 
the messenger was gagged and bound, 
a piece of soap was put into his 



288 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

mouth, that he might appear in the 
last extremity, and presently he was 
set to learn by heart the tale that he 
should tell his employers. By long 
practice each actor became perfect in 
his part. The car was raided, one 
hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars 
was the modest spoil, and Pinkerton 
and his men were gallantly defied. 
A hasty trip to Canada still further 
perplexed the pursuers, and if we 
may believe Moore, he not only baffled 
the great detective, but persuaded the 
Express Company to dispute his claim. 
Moore, in fact, took a sportsman s 
as well as an artist s pleasure in the 
game. After the discomfiture of his 
enemies, he loved nothing better than 
a neat job. He professes a frank 
delight in explaining how once upon 
a time he opened the Honourable Ben 
jamin Wood s safe, and did not soil 



THE UNDERWORLD 289 

his carpet. And there was good 
reason for his scruple. No sooner had 
he flashed his dark lantern on the 
office than he observed that the floor 
was newly covered, and that fresh 
paint and paper shone upon the walls. 
Now he had no objection to easing 
the Honourable Benjamin of fifty 
thousand dollars. Being a gentleman, 
he would scorn to spoil a new Brussels 
carpet. Accordingly he took some 
papers from Mr Wood s file and spread 
them carefully on the floor. The rest 
of the dramatic recital shall be given 
in his own words : 

When this was done, we drilled two five- 
eighth-inch holes through the fire-proof door 
into the bolt case, jacked the plate from the 
frame, . . . and opened the door. I then put 
in a wooden wedge at the top to keep the 
plate from springing back, took down the 
jack, and shook out all the loose filing upon 
the papers. This I gathered carefully up, 

T 



290 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

and put the lime, plaster, and papers in the 
coal-hod, placed some more clean papers under 
the door, and made everything ready to leave 
the building as soon as the boodle was trans 
ferred safe to our pockets. After looking 
through the books and papers, the money 
was taken out and counted. It amounted to 
but a single one-dollar note. 

Was ever an artist so bitterly de 
ceived? Langdon W. Moore rose to 
the occasion. He was no pilferer, and 
scorned to carry off so mean a booty. 
In the words of the police-captain, he 
would not add larceny to burglary. 
But lie paid the penalty of greatness. 
His work was instantly recognised. " I 
know the man," said Captain Jordan, 
" for there is but one in the world who 
would take all that trouble to save your 
carpet while breaking open your safe." 

It reminds you of the story told by 
Pliny of Apelles the painter, who once 
upon a time called upon Protogenes, 



THE UNDERWORLD 291 

another master of his craft, when Pro- 
togenes was not within. Whereupon 
Apelles, seeing a picture before him, 
took a pencil and drew in colour upon 
the picture a passing fine and small 
line. Then said he to the old woman 
in the house, " Tell thy master that he 
who made this line inquired for him." 
And when Protogenes returned, and 
had looked upon the line, he knew 
who had been there, and said withal, 
" Surely Apelles has come to town, 
for it is impossible that any but he 
should make in colour so fine work 
manship." Thus genius is betrayed by 
its own perfection, and he who refused 
to soil the carpet could not but be 
recognised by his skill. 

And Langdon W. Moore was forced 
to pay another and a more grievous pen 
alty for his renown. As the fame of his 
prowess spread abroad, he fell a prey 



292 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

to the greed of detectives. Do what 
he would, he could never rid himself of 
the attentions of the police. Henceforth 
it was almost impossible for him to 
work in safety, and whatever booty he ob 
tained he must needs share with his un 
welcome companions. He was like a fly 
condemned to spend his life in the irk 
some society of the spider. When he 
had not much to give, his poverty was 
rewarded by years in prison ; and then, 
as he says himself, he " was welcomed 
back into the old criminal life by 
crooked police officials." These officials 
had no desire to help him. " I was 
not asked by them" again it is Moore 
who speaks "if I was in want of any 
thing, but was told that if I wanted 
to make some money they could put me 
on to a good bank job where I could 
make a million." And, if we may be 
lieve the historians, Moore s experience 



THE UNDERWORLD 293 

is not singular. The truth is, the 
thief-taker still flourishes in America. 
Jonathan Wild, his occupation gone 
in England, has crossed the ocean, and 
plies his trade with greater skill and 
treachery than ever. He thinks it 
better to live on the criminal than to 
catch him. And thus he becomes a 
terror not to the evildoer but to the 
law-abiding citizen. It is his business 
to encourage crime, not to stamp it 
out. If there were no thieves, where 
would the stool - pigeon and detective 
find their profits ? " Wy," said a pick 
pocket 1 in New York, "them coppers 
up there in the Tenderloin couldn t 
have any diamond rings if we didn t 
help to pay for em. No, they couldn t. 
They d sit down in the street and 
actually cry an they re big men some 

1 See The World of Graft, by J. Flint (1901), 
p. 154. 



294 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

of em if we guns was run off the 
earth." In other words, the lesson of 
the American Underworld is that the 
policeman may be a far greater danger 
to the community than the criminal. 
Jonathan Wild will always do more 
harm than Jack Sheppard. The skill 
and daring of the cracksman makes 
him a marked man. But quis custodes 
custodiet ? 



EPILOGUE. 

A TRAVELLER visiting a strange land 
takes for granted the simpler virtues. 
He notes with gratitude and without 
surprise the generous practice of hos 
pitality. He recognises that the hus 
bandman, patiently toiling on his farm, 
adscriptus glebce, holds in his toil- 
worn hands the destiny of his country. 
He knows that the excellent work done 
in tranquil seclusion by men of letters 
and scholars will outlast the braggart 
achievements of well-advertised million 
aires and " prominent " citizens. Fortu 
nately, such virtues as these are the 
common inheritance of all peoples. 



296 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

They are not characteristic of this nation 
or of that. They belong, like air and 
sunlight, to the whole civilised world. 
And it is not by similarities, but by 
differences, that the traveller arrives 
at a clear picture of a foreign 
land. Especially in America do the 
softer shades and quieter subtleties 
escape the unaccustomed eye. The 
swift energies, the untiring restlessness, 
the universal haste, obscure the ameni 
ties of life more darkly there than else 
where. The frank contempt of law and 
blood, which receives a daily illustra 
tion, must needs take a firmer hold of 
the observer than the peaceful tillage 
of the fields and the silent acquisition 
of knowledge. America is unhappy in 
that she is still making her history, 
not one episode of which a vigilant 
and lupine press will suffer to go un 
recorded. Graft and corruption stalk 



EPILOGUE 297 

abroad, public and unashamed. The 
concentration of vast wealth in a few 
pockets results, on the one hand, in 
a lowering of the commercial code, on 
the other, in a general diffusion of 
poverty. These are some of the traits 
which mark America off from the other 
nations, and these traits none with 
a sense of the picturesque can ever 
overlook. 

Yet it is not these traits which make 
the deepest impression upon the re 
turning traveller. As he leaves the 
shores of America he forgets for the 
moment her love of money and of 
boodle, he forgets her superb energy 
and hunger for life, he forgets the 
exquisite taste shown by the most 
delicately refined of her citizens. He 
remembers most vividly that he is 
saying good-bye to the oldest land 
on earth. It is an irony of experience 



298 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

that the inhabitants of the United 
States are wont to describe themselves 
as a young people. They delight to ex 
cuse their extravagances on the ground 
of youth. When they grow older (they 
tell you) they will take another view 
of politics and of conduct. And the* 
truth is that old age long ago over-/ 
took them. America is not, never was, 
young. She sprang, ready-made, from 
the head of a Pilgrim Father, the 
oldest of God s creatures. Being an 
old man s daughter, she has escaped 
the virtues and vices of an irresponsible 
childhood. In the primitive history of 
the land her ancestors took no part. 
They did not play with flint -knives 
and set up dolmens where New York 
now stands. They did not adorn them 
selves with woad and feathers. The 
Prince Albert coat (or its equivalent) 
was always more appropriate to their 



EPILOGUE 299 

ambition. In vain you will search the 
United States for the signs of youth. 
Wherever you cast your eye you will 
find the signal proofs of an eager, 
grasping age. Youth loiters and is 
glad, listening to the songs of birds, 
wondering at the flowers which carpet 
the meadow, and recking not of the 
morrow. America is grave and in a 
hurry. She is not content to fleet 
the time carelessly, as they did in 
the golden age. The one hope of her 
citizens is to get to Wall Street as 
quickly as possible, that they may add 
to their already useless hoard of dollars. 
For this purpose they have perfected 
all those material appliances which in 
crease the rapidity and ease of life. 
They would save their labour as stren 
uously as they would add to their fort 
unes. A telephone at every bed-head has 
made the toil of letter -writing super- 



300 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

fluous. A thousand ingenious methods 
of " transportation " have taken away 
the necessity of walking. There is no 
reason why in the years to come hand 
and foot should not both be atrophied. 
But there is nothing young in this 
sedulous suppression of toil. Youth 
is prodigal of time and of itself. Youth 
boasts of strength and prowess to do 
great deeds, not of skill to pile millions 
upon millions, a Pelion upon an Ossa 
of wealth. Nor in the vain luxury 
of New York can we detect anything 
save the signs of age. It is only in 
modern America that the mad extrava 
gance of Nero s Eome may be matched. 
There the banquet of Trimalchio might 
be presented without surprise and 
without reproach. It differs from 
what are known as "freak dinners" 
only in the superiority of its invention 
and in the perfection of its table-talk. 



EPILOGUE 301 

In brief, the fantastic ambition of a 
" cottage" at Newport, as of Trimalchio s 
villa in Southern Italy, is the ambi 
tion, not of primitive, reckless, pleasure- 
loving youth, but of an old age, sated 
and curious, which hurries to decay. 

Again, it is not a young people 
which cries aloud " too old at forty ! " 
In the childhood of the world, the 
voice of age is the voice of wisdom. 
It is for Nestor that Homer claims 
the profoundest respect, and to - day 
America is teaching us, who are only 
too willing to learn the baneful lesson, 
that knowledge and energy die with 
youth. Once upon a time I met an 
American who had returned from his 
first visit to Europe, and when I asked 
what was the vividest impression he 
brought from thence, he replied : "I 
was surprised to see an old man like 
the German Emperor doing so much 



302 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

work." In our more youthful eyes 
the German Emperor has but crossed 
the threshold of life. The years of his 
mature activity lie before him, we 
believe, like an untrodden road. But 
for the American, prematurely worn 
out by the weight of time and the 
stress of affairs, William II. already 
hastens to his decline, and clings to 
the reins of office with the febrile 
courage of an old man. 

And all the while America is sub 
limely unconscious that the joys of child 
hood are not hers. Though with the 
hypochondria of advancing years she de 
mands a doctor for her soul, she knows 
not from what disease she suffers. She 
does not pray for a Medea to thrust 
her into a cauldron of rejuvenescence. 
With a bluff optimism she declares that 
she is still the youngest of the nations, 



EPILOGUE 303 

and boasts that when she has grown up 
to the height of her courage and 
activity she will make triumphant even 
her bold experiment in democracy. Not 
upon her has the divine injunction de 
scended : Tv&di o-eavrbv. She who knows 
so much knows not herself. How 
should she, when she is composed of 
so many and so diverse elements ? And 
lacking self-knowledge, she lacks humour. 
With the best will in the world, she 
cannot see the things about her in a 
true proportion. The blithe atmosphere, 
clear as crystal, sparkling as champagne, 
in which she lives, persuades her to 
take a too serious and favourable view 
of her own character. And let it be 
remembered that with her optimism 
she still treasures the sentimentality of 
her Puritan ancestors. She is a true 
idealist, who loves nothing so dearly as 



304 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

"great thoughts." She delights in the 
phrases and aspirations which touch the 
heart more nearly than the head. 
Though her practice does not always 
square with her theory, especially in 
the field of politics, she is indefatigable 
in the praise of freedom, equality, and 
the other commonplaces of democracy. 
The worst is, that she cannot laugh at 
herself. Her gravity and sensitiveness 
still lie, like stumbling-blocks, in her 
path. She accepts the grim adulation 
of such unwise citizens as Mr Carnegie 
as no more than her due. If only 
she could dismiss the flattery of her 
admirers with an outburst of Gargan 
tuan hilarity, all virtues might be added 
unto her. But, as I have said, she 
lacks this one thing. She is the home 
of humourists and no humour. A thous 
and jesters minister to her amusement, 



EPILOGUE 305 

and she pays them handsomely. More 
jokes are made within her borders in 
a day than suffice the rest of the 
globe for a year. And the laughter 
which they provoke is not spontane 
ous. You can hear the creak of the 
machine as it goes to work. The ever- 
present jester is a proof that humour 
is an exotic, which does not grow 
naturally on the soil, and does not 
belong more intimately to the American 
people than did the cumbersome jokes 
of Archie Armstrong to the monarch 
who employed him. The humour which 
simplifies life, and detects a spice of 
ridicule even in the operations of busi 
ness and politics, is rarely found in 
America. Nor is its absence remark 
able. The Americans are absorbed from 
early youth to ripe old age in the pur 
suit of success. In whatever path they 
u 



306 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

walk they are determined to triumph. 
Sport for them is less an amusement 
than a chance to win. When they em 
bark upon business, as the most of 
them do, their ambition is insatiable. 
They are consumed by the passion of 
money -making. The hope of victory 
makes them despise toil and renounce 
pleasure. Gladly will they deprive 
themselves of rest and lead laborious 
lives. The battle and its booty are 
their own reward. They count their 
gathered dollars with the same pride 
wherewith the conquering general counts 
his prisoners of war. But the contest 
marks their faces with the lines of care, 
and leaves them beggared of gaiety. 
How can they take themselves other 
than seriously when millions depend 
upon their nod ? They have bent their 
energies to one special end and purpose 



EPILOGUE 307 

the making of money ; and in the 
process, as an American once said to 
me, they forget to eat, they forget to 
live. More obviously still, they forget 
to laugh. The comedy of their own 
career is never revealed to them. Their 
very slang displays their purpose : they 
are "out for the stuff," and they will 
not let it escape them. A kind of 
sanctity hangs about money. It is not 
a thing to be taken lightly ; it is no 
proper subject for a jest. And as 
money and its quest absorb the best 
energies of America, it follows that 
America is distinguished by a high 
seriousness with which Europe is power 
less to compete. However far a pro 
fession may be removed from the mart, 
profit is its end. Brilliant research, 
fortunate achievement these also are 
means, like buying and selling. In 



308 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

scholarship, as in commerce, money is 
still the measure of success. Dr Mtin- 
sterberg, a well-known professor at 
Harvard, has recorded the opinion of a 
well-known English scholar, which, with 
the doctor s comment, throws a clearer 
light upon the practice of America than 
a page of argument. " America will 
not have first-class scholarship," said 
the Englishman, "in the sense in which 
Germany or England has it, till every 
professor in the leading universities has 
at least ten thousand dollars salary, 
and the best scholars receive twenty- 
five thousand dollars." Dr Munsterberg 
refused at first to accept this conclusion 
of the pessimist, but, says he, the years 
have convinced him. Scholars must be 
paid generously in the current coin, or 
they will not respect their work. It is 
not greed, precisely, which drives the 



EPILOGUE 309 

American along the road of money- 
getting. It is, as I have said, a frank 
pride in the spoils, a pride which is the 
consistent enemy of light -heartedness, 
and which speedily drives those whom 
it possesses into a grave melancholy. 

This, then, is the dominant impress 
ion which America gives the traveller 
the impression of a serious old gentle 
man, whom not even success will per 
suade to laugh at his own foibles. 
And there is another quality of the 
land, of which the memory will never 
fade. America is apprehensive. She 
has tentacles strong and far-reaching, 
like the tentacles of a cuttle-fish. She 
seizes the imagination as no other 
country seizes it. If you stayed long 
within her borders, you would be 
absorbed into her citizenship and her 
energies like the enthusiastic immigrant. 



310 AMERICAN SKETCHES 

You would speak her language with a 
proper emphasis and a becoming accent. 
A few weeks passed upon her soil seem 
to give you the familiarity of long use 
and custom. "Have I been here for 
years?" you ask after a brief sojourn. 
" Can it be possible that I have ever 
lived anywhere else ? " 



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